Being Gotten

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Any problem, big or small, within a family, always seems to start with bad communication. Someone isn’t listening.
–Emma Thompson

I have been doing a lot of mediation coaching in Pittsburgh and elsewhere helping management and staff work together better. It is not all that different from executive coaching because, after all, I am still talking to real people with real problems. When I am doing this work, I am often left with a feeling for how stringent we are in our beliefs, and how difficult it is for us to be free of judgments and to get our feelings heard. I’ve seen many times how placing judgment on the other members of the team slows productivity at work, and threatens relationships between partners and friends.

The biggest culprit I find in these situations is poor communication. We all probably fancy ourselves excellent communicators and can’t understand why someone else doesn’t follow our simple directions, train of thought, or idea. We walk away from conversations with our loved ones, coworkers, or friends with bruised feelings because we feel we have not been heard. In a recent survey with a global company I found that most of the 150 people who took part in a cross-cultural training thought that their communication was perfect but their co-workers were flawed and poor. When we point the finger, we are left feeling dis-empowered and hopeless. Issues are not resolved and work doesn’t get done efficiently.

Let me give you an example:
In my recent mediation coaching session I had the pleasure of working with an introvert and an extrovert. The introvert was complaining of too much talk and activity, and the extrovert had her feelings hurt because she did not feel received. The new office mate did not talk enough with her. After both parties got to air out their difference, and created a way to communicate their needs, they were able to create a positive work relationship where one was able to request quiet when it was needed and the other was able to be more talkative when requested.

I know this seem like a very silly example, but it is often those silly things that fester and create bad relationships at work. Add the gossip and victim hood on top of it and it is to no one’s surprise that 70 percent of people are dissatisfied at work.

Communication is about being received, being seen, and being gotten. It’s hard to have that between two people if you’re coming from two different places, especially judgment. If you are wondering why this matters think about this: happiness could be the underlying factor for success, and there is science to back that up. Thomas Wright, Jon Wefald Leadership Chair in Business Administration and professor of management at K-State, found employee well-being is tied to higher performance. And employee performance is, after all, tied to a company’s bottom line. Happy workers make better decisions and have better interpersonal behavior.

This makes happiness a valuable tool for maximizing organizational outcomes. Economists too have found a link between happiness and productivity. In recent research, Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at Warwick Business School, found happier workers were 12 percent more productive. Unhappier workers were 10 percent less productive. Yes, this is nothing new but something to remember. Heard employees are happy and engaged employees that are more likely to take the company to double-digit growth.

In order to hear and be heard, we have to be open to the conversation. But so many of us go into a meeting or a disagreement with our partner with preconceived ideas or thoughts about the person that make it difficult for us to listen and communicate. We have filters on, filters from the past, filters for how it is, and filters for what we want. What if you went in to a meeting or a disagreement with your partner and decided instead to be generous and listen to them with new ears. Forget about the past and really receive what they are saying or participate in a dialogue instead of a lecture? What if you tried meeting your colleague or partner in a place where they are comfortable?

I know two coworkers who have very different styles of communication. One wants to document everything in email and isn’t much for talking things through. The other likes to talk out ideas face-to-face. What if the email worker spent a little time talking to her colleague, fleshed out some ideas, and then they both documented the results of their meeting in an email. Well that’s a win-win. The colleague who likes to talk can feel she has been heard and it may help the email colleague find that the conversation sparked a new way of looking at things for her. And still, the email colleague will have her documentation and be able to see that real results came out of the conversation.

Once we’re open to a conversation and receiving the person on the other end of the conversation, new ideas can be born and better relationships can be built, whether it is at work or at home. And what’s more science seems to be proving that by doing this, we are likely to build a better app, find a more cost effective solution, and retain employees.

{ 1 comment }

Patti McCully November 8, 2011 at 6:53 am

The challenge that presents itself to me in the work place is the inability to have others be open to a conversation, I feel a good manager is the key. A manager can create a meeting if they feel it
is of importance, most managers don’t want to get involved in inter- personal relationships within a department.

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