I was out walking my dogs this morning and was reminded of a comment a friend of mine made when she recently moved house. She couldn’t believe how friendly people in the ‘burbs’ were, she had moved from inner city. Everyone out jogging, cycling or walking would all say good morning to her. I thought at the time that she was really just stating the obvious as that had always been my experience. There is a code, it seems. Everyone that exercises always acknowledges everyone else that is doing same by greeting via the time of day. That is, good morning or good afternoon; until this morning…
Today, I encountered a fellow walker who, rather than look at me, smile and mutter a good morning, fiddled with his ear phones, kept eyes to the ground and walked right on past me. How rude, I thought. And I have to confess to also feeling quite miffed, which when you think about it is strange given this person was, and still is a total stranger! As I continued to walk, I realised my encounter was not dissimilar to many in the workplace.
It got me thinking about how…
Everything we say, or do not say, and everything we do, or do not do, communicates something.
I recall many conversations I have had over the years concerning workplace relationships (and really this can relate to ALL relationships) where an action (or inaction) has led to conflict simply because we interpret ALL actions through our own frame of reference. And this is exactly what happened in terms of my encounter with the walker; he did not abide by the exercise code! That is, in my frame of reference, I have an exercise code that expects I will be acknowledged, as I acknowledge all those that are out exercising; and he did not!
I remember a few years back having a conversation with a newly appointed manager who was struggling with his role. He shared with me how he was a fairly quiet sort of a bloke and that he didn’t want to be a micro manager, so he was happy to let his team be. He said he would come to work in the morning and not want to bother anyone so he would slip quietly into his office, confident that if anyone needed him they would come and ask for his assistance. Sound reasonable? Perhaps, except when you hear the opposing story from his team. Their spin was a guy who didn’t care, came to work every morning without acknowledging anyone, aloof, unapproachable and isn’t a manager’s foot – well that is my take, you can insert as many expletives in that last comment as you see fit.
This topic is very much in my consciousness at the moment as I am doing a piece of work around coaching and developing a training team for continuous improvement. A comment was made by one of the trainers that you can’t possibly run a communication competency piece over an eight (8) hour duration; three (3) would be the maximum and even then that is too long! I initially thought he was joking but very quickly realised he was not!
I often ask participants of my sessions to identify characteristics –
- of effective relationships, leaders, teams, trainers
- of contributing factors to incidents and accidents
- of project failures and successes
- of likeability; that is, what determines whether we like someone or not!
Without hesitation, I always get a resounding “communication” as the key response, but do we ever really stop to ponder what communication truly is?
I get the sense that most of us believe because we have two ears and can hear and a mouth and can speak that we communicate? Sadly, my observations over many years confirm this NOT to be true. Even sadder however, is most of us don’t realise this and continually wonder why relationships go pear shape or why a simple communication ends in such conflict!
Remember the line “everything we say, or do not say, everything we do, or do not do, communicates something”?
Well, this is the underlying principle of communication — and pinned to this is the need for consciousness; to build awareness of the role we play in all interactions with others.
Communication starts on the inside.
Our communication style and our ability to interact effectively with others is set up by our values, beliefs and attitudes and some of these are not always known to us consciously, but play a big role when we interact with others. You might not yet have created awareness of this but you would have felt it at some time. It is that moment when the hairs on the back of your neck rise, you get a lump in your throat, your mouth goes dry, you want to cry, you get angry, you clench your fists?
These are all indicators that the interaction you are having is about to go pear-shaped and in essence, most of us will –
- deny we contributed to the demise of the interaction in any way, shape or form;
- simply blame the other person or persons – it was ALL their fault; and
- justify what happened in some way that suits our point of view and protects us from any liability.
The D-B-Js — deny, blame, justify!
Now that I have started this topic it is way bigger than I can do justice to in one article so I am going to chunk it down into smaller pieces and dish it up to you periodically.
So, if this is of interest to you – stay tuned. I will post several or many pieces and together we can explore this thing called communication!