It takes conscious effort to practice effective communication in the workplace because we’re so used to talking on top of one another and not really understanding what each other is saying. One of the least effective communication dynamics that permeates our workplaces is the cycle of reacting to anything people say. It goes something like this:
Person 1: I think we need to work together a little more.
Person 2: I resent what you just said. It implies we don’t work well together and I disagree with that. In fact, I find it offensive and I completely refute the idea that we don’t work well together.
Person 1 gets mad, retaliates and perpetuates the cycle. Sometimes other people pile in, make the situation worse and get their feelings hurt. Somewhere in the distance a phone rings in HR asking for a mediator.
Interactions like this happen all the time because people react so quickly to what others say. They bring their personal baggage to the workplace and then empty it all out on their employees or colleagues. So how can you stop the cycle of reacting to what other people say and improve workplace communication?
- Listen to the other person.
- Try to understand just the words they are saying.
- Don’t bring in your opinions about the person into the situation.
- Don’t assume you know what they mean.
- Assume that they’re not trying to hurt you or make you look stupid.
- Curb any thoughts about fighting or rebutting.
- Control any need to argue or defend yourself.
- Do away with the need to be right or win.
- Ask open-ended questions if you don’t fully understand what they say.
- Repeat back what they say to them to make sure you’ve got it right.
If you do these things you’ll be on the way to breaking the cycle of reacting to everything that is said. It will do wonders for your workplace and help you create an environment where people actually listen to each other without jumping to conclusions or throwing tantrums. This is an especially effective approach for leaders because it allows them to act like grownups and set a positive example for everyone. What will you do to stop reacting negatively to what others say?