Did you ever wonder why some conversations are great and others seem to a drag and you can’t wait to exit. Well there is a reason why. When we become self absorbed with ourselves, our thoughts and agendas, we rarely take the time to listen. There are other reasons too which we will address in other posts, but for right now, we are focusing in on the listening factor.
Many of us have developed killer conversation techniques that stunt our dialogues and information exchange. Over time, they have become patterns that we repeat without realizing it. We often give unwanted advice or offer autobiographical stories that the person we are talking to is not interested in. Or we may project an attitude that is a real turn off. We can also put on masks of self protection because we have been hurt too many times. All of these behaviors can hinder our success and limit our career growth. It can hurt our level of intimacy with the people we love most.
The bottom line is we engage in behavior that sabotages healthy interactions in our relationships. In other words, we are not being authentic with others. Being authentic is a key to having effective and fulfilling relationships.
We need to step out of the pattern we are stuck in and step into a new level of communication. This isn’t as hard as you think. You simply need to become more centered on the person you are talking to than yourself. Shed the agenda’s, let go of the hang ups, and bad attitudes for a moment. This can be done by two simple steps. 1)Ask questions, and 2) listen. Its about becoming present to the moment.
When we talk with a person, we can typically read people’s attitude and what they are projecting. Here are some attitudes, and masks that could impair the quality of any conversation. Do you do any of them yourself?
• I am always Good.
(honest, successful, hardworking, powerful, wealthy, sacrificing)
• I am Good but you are not.
• You are Good but I am not.
• I am a victim. Join me in my self pity please.
• I am always right, you are wrong.
• I am fragile. Be careful, you might hurt me.
• I am tough. You should be tough like me.
• I want the facts only. Don’t give me subjective information.
• I am in charge. Pay attention, I am important.
• I am a joker and am funny. Laugh at my jokes
• I have all the answers. I can fix all your problems.
• I am looking for everything wrong. I am an expert at criticizing others.
• I am the best storyteller.
• I will avoid all conflicts. Emotions and disagreements are bad karma.
• I have got you labeled….so watch it.
• I am the creative and artistic one.
At some point or another, we have all worked our own agenda’s in conversations as well as put on various masks to protect ourselves so others could not see the real you. Perhaps you have put on a positive mask and not a negative one? Still people may not be able to access the real you.
Take some time to reflect upon your friendships at home, work, the teams you have been a part of, and organizations you have been involved in. What annoying conversation killers do you engaged in?
Take an inventory and put on a new face…. how about the real you? It may be a little scary at first, but its worth it.
Take some time to put yourself in the shoe of the person you are talking to. Ask some questions and listen. You may discover some things that are very surprising.
The other day I was in a meeting with a few executives. The program that I am involved in was launching a new initiative, and to say the least, they were not organized. Everyone in the room was looking for directions and guidance to set expectations. The group attending the meeting was looking for their marching orders. There was a lot of tension in the room because of the lack of clarity and the uncertainty of how the project would impact group represented.
There a you a young lady in the room who had experience regarding the new project. As the frustration levels surged in the room because of some of the chaotic conversations, this young lady began to give her advice about what needed to take place in order for the program to succeed. Everything she said made sense and it was clear that she had the knowledge and experience. However, she crossed a line she was not aware of.
What do you think she did wrong?
She made all the leaders of the project look like they didn’t know what they were doing in front of their executives. Furthermore, she made the executives look like they didn’t know what they were doing. In some corporate cultures, there is a BIG RULE. Never point out another person’s short falls in front of their higher ups. As the person gave a download of information, (which I thought was helpful) you could feel the uneasiness in the room grow, as people realized the team didn’t have their act together and the executives felt exposed. As the dialogue continued, the women continued to add her comments which then reached a tipping point. One of the leaders of the project snapped at her and put her in her place. Talk about tension.
If you know more than the people you work for, be prudent in how you share your experience and know how.
Here are some suggestions to avoid sabotaging your career.
1) If you think you know more than your higher ups, ask them questions in a tactful way to find out what they know. Your questions and lead them to seek out the solutions them selves.
2) Meet with them in person, and introduce your ideas in such a way that they can own them and embrace them. Some peoples ego’s are really frail. I know some of you might be barfing at this statement, but it’s true.
3) Talk to your immediate supervisor about your ideas and offer to help. Making recommendations without offering your help, can come off in a negative way.
4) Be positive, don’t point out the short comings of others. Be solution orientated.
5) Approach people with what I call an “attitude of entreaty”. Be respectful and don’t come off sounding like a know it all. It will likely destroy the opportunity for your ideas to be adopted.
6) If your first approach doesn’t succeed, don’t give up. Look for other ways to share your ideas and suggestions. You would be surprised on how much good you can do to improve things if you don’t care about who gets the credit.
Be careful how you share your know how!