How’s your communication going these days?
Moving things forward? Feeling energetic? Nailing it with Team Think, collaboration, innovation and problem-solving despite disruption and unpredictability?
Maybe at work, but not so much at home? Or perhaps the other way around? Or both-and? There is nothing effortless about creating engagement. According to a Gallup Survey, 85% of people are not engaged or actively disengaged in their work.
And this survey was before the pandemic. It\'s tiring to support team engagement when we feel weighted under weariness.
Your Spectrum of Influence
We have two basic patterns to move things forward. We either tell and sell (maybe even yell), or we ask questions. It’s our spectrum of influence. Tim Clark, in The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety elaborates:
You’re either trying to figure something out or you’re trying to convince others that you have figured it out…Obviously, these two things translate into two clear behavioral patterns. When you’re engaged in inquiry, when you’re trying to figure something out when you’re in discovery mode, what are you doing as you participate in dialogue or discussion? That’s right, you’re asking questions. On the other hand, if you’re engaged in advocacy, trying to influence others toward your point of view, what are you doing? Right again, you’re telling”
When We Tell and Sell
For some of us, our weariness pushes us into a reactive state, into telling and selling. It’s a rut we fall into when anxious, worried, impatient, pressured – and when we are not self-aware of our feelings. In the moment, it actually may feel productive. But the problem is that it doesn’t yield more engagement.
Why? Well, think about it. Do you like it when someone tells you what to do?
With tell and sell, the receiver hears an awful lot of noise with little or no opportunity for engagement. And thus at some point, they simply tune us out.
When We Go Silent
For others of us, stress drops us deeper into retreat. While no response may seem an appropriate solution to chaos, it is insidiously damaging.
Why? Think about a time when you received no feedback on a job or accomplishment. What happened to your motivation? A lack of feedback, of positive, consistent affirmations from clients, colleagues, staff, family and friends will trigger (more) uncertainty.
Did she get my e-mail? Did he notice my additional effort? Does she recognize my expertise? Is he angry at me? Am I having any impact here? Does anybody really care about my contributions?
Uncertainty in Conversations
Uncertainty is not harmless. Uncertainty triggers distrust in our brain, the opposite of what we want in conversation. Judith Glaser in Conversational Intelligence notes:
Being in synch with others is vital to healthy relationships. And it’s not just a metaphor. Research indicates that when we are comfortable with someone, our heartbeat becomes more coherent, sending signals to the brain to relax, open up, and share with that person. When gaps arise between what we expect and what we get, we become uncertain of our relationship and our fear networks begin to take control of our brains. As a result, we find ourselves lacking the neurochemical and hormonal support for placing trust in others.
Ask and Be Well
When our hands, head and hearts are working together, we have a culture of high trust, well-being and psychological safety. And asking questions, curious questions. is a definite path forward for inclusion and innovation. So I ask you (and me equally often):
- What is working well in your communication?
- What will you do to further model, mentor and inspire a healthier Ask to Tell: Inquiry to Advocacy ratio?
- What will you do to decrease the negative impact of uncertainty in your communications?
When we trust one another, there is a predictive understanding of one another\'s behavior that allows us to be open, curious, creative and at ease.
Here\'s to some great discovery conversations ahead!