Great friendly message to Scientists and Engineers about communicating with everyone else.
Six minutes worth watching, especially if you have a techie bias in any field!
Great friendly message to Scientists and Engineers about communicating with everyone else.
Six minutes worth watching, especially if you have a techie bias in any field!
Click on this post to view a short fun video that shows us that the connected mind is where good ideas come from.
We say we don’t want drama in our lives, especially in our interactions at work. Drama usually means unpleasantness, frustration, conflict, lack of productivity.
If it meant “real drama,” i.e. the joy and sadness of life, or dramatic performances that make us feel and reflect, it would be OK. It’s the unnecessary drama, the interpersonal politics, the constant irritants that we don’t want. They take up energy and distract us from getting important things done.
WHY is there drama?
As any team member or manager knows, people tend to play non-productive games in times of stress, when they feel threatened, or when they are bored.
Some people can stir up tension with remarkable regularity. Others fall into drama in response to triggers such as layoffs, new policies, rumors of closings or reorganizations, complaints, and either getting too much direction or too little, either too much feedback or too little.
In other words, workplace drama has plenty of possible material. If asked, most people would say they don’t participate or don’t want to.
We all play games some of the time.
Few people are skillful at recognizing their own hooks that get games started or keep them going. Dr. Eric Berne’s 1962 bestseller, Games People Play, named this phenomenon and began to provide clues to getting out of the drama. His student, Dr. Steve Karpman, contributed the Karpman Drama Triangle, capturing the three main roles of Rescuer, Persecutor, and Victim, which we all play when we engage in games. And yes, we all do engage in games some of the time.
The more hooked we are, the harder it may be to recognize that we are indeed participating. It is helpful in avoiding games to be very open to recognizing how we are hooked and the roles we play out.
Persecutor, Rescuer, and Victim Roles
If we are overtly critical and harsh with others, we are playing the Persecutor role. If we are often going out of our way to fix and solve things for others at our own expense, we are playing the Rescuer. If we keep finding that people let us down and we get the short end of the stick, we know something of the Victim.
As a rule, we do not want to see it when we are hooked, so it can take active investigation to uncover how we are keeping an undesirable situation going. All these roles can come in socially acceptable disguises.
If something’s happening that is non-productive, especially if it seems repetitive, it’s likely that people are playing all the roles; Victim, Rescuer, Persecutor; in some way.
Dissolve the myths
The way out of the drama begins with yourself. You have to dissolve the myths that go with the roles, usually beliefs that diminish your ability to stay positive and get on with it.
· To move out of Persecutor, you might have to see that the other person’s point of view makes some sense too.
· Moving out of Rescuer might mean saying a difficult “No.”
· Whenever you think you are someone else’s Victim, remember how you got here and what choices you are making now.
Almost always, drama conceals feelings and wishes that have not been communicated. Unspoken requests and expectations leave room for people to create their own dramas, feeling judged and thus victimized, or judging others from a persecuting or rescuing perspective.
Clarify requests and agreements
A very good bet for stepping out of the drama and on to whatever is next is to clarify any requests or agreements that you have with the other person. “You agreed to have that report done by today and I haven’t seen anything about it so far. Is it under way?” is a lot better than worrying and glaring, and having the other person spend their time figuring out what you might be upset about.
A genuine tone of clarifying, rather than a disguised Persecutor or Rescuer attitude, will come across as intended. If you step into the other person’s shoes and listen from their standpoint, you can probably tell if you are coming across with a hint of judgment.
This is the hardest and most important part of stopping drama — owning your part of it.
Don’t see your part of it?
When your part is hard to figure out, and the drama is continuing, it is time to ask a friend or a professional for coaching. Someone else’s observations may help you recognize the unintended, unconscious, but still active, ways that you are participating, and help you see new options.
One thing for sure: if you blame the situation or the other person and don’t find new actions for yourself to take, your claim not to want the drama doesn’t hold up.
Once you, and hopefully, the other person, are out of the cycle of drama, it might be worth a good laugh and a reminder not to take anything too seriously.
You may have seen in recent news the so-called “people’s mike” in demonstrations on Wall Street and around the US. This caught my attention. It began as a result of the demonstrators not being allowed to use a P.A. system.
Whoever is speaking says a phrase or two and the people standing there repeat what was said so the larger group can hear it. It is pretty dramatic for the words to be broadcast not by electronics but by other people.
As a facilitator, I am always interested in group process, in what tools we have to communicate effectively with each other.
The Occupy Wall Street group in San Francisco holds General Assembly meetings in a park near the Federal Reserve. I had an opportunity to experience their decision-making process for about half an hour. That allowed me to get the basics of how people are chosen to speak, how they facilitate interaction, and how they can reach consensus in a fluid crowd of passionate individuals.
Anyone who has pulled together a project or led events or meetings has had to deal with fluid crowds and / or passionate individuals. I wondered how it was possible to keep it focused out in the open air with a diverse, self-organizing group of people.
This group in San Francisco had basic assumptions that everyone had equal rights to speak and respond, and had a voice in making decisions. With those values, they elected someone to facilitate who explained the signals they used. The structure of how to reach consensus in a group was revealed.
The way people got to speak is that they signed up in order. One volunteer took charge of keeping track of who was to speak, “the stack.” They had timekeepers with signs to let people know when they had 30 seconds or 15 seconds left.
What I found most interesting was the mechanism for how people could express their response to the speaker. If you wanted to give a direct response, you wagged your two index fingers back and forth, pointing at yourself and the speaker. This wasn’t to be used to express disagreement but to answer a question or ask a question directly. If you want to speak your own point of view and disagree, you line up in the stack.
While someone is speaking, the crowd expresses its responses, making this a very active way of hearing speakers. If you want to show your response, you can, or you can just listen. To respond affirmatively, you wave both hands in the air with your palms toward the speaker. If you are responding negatively, you hold up crossed arms.
Decisions were made by consensus, not by majority vote. The facilitator explained that to say yes, thumbs up. To say you are not in favor but don’t want to block the action, you point a thumb to the side. If you want to block the action, you hold up a thumbs-down. The facilitator had to read the thumbs. If there were lots of thumbs up, before moving on he would say, “Are there any thumbs-down that I can’t see?”
If someone wanted to block a motion, they would be asked to say why, and they would work it out with the proponents of the action until the group reached agreement.
Certainly in this group, patience was required to stick it out. For people who had committed to camp near the Fed, they had time to work through every point with the group. For a business meeting, I might suggest employing some of the tactics (well, maybe the handwaving and crossed arms could be kept out in the park) that would create inclusion and ownership of results. The method of asking for “thumbs-down” and an explanation is a good way to keep the thinking open and robust.
In online meetings and teleconferences, some form of this can happen when the platform allows responses, polling, and other means of interaction. More real-time visibility, feedback, and input methods encourage remote participants to feel empowered and to contribute.
For me, it was inspiring to see people in a crowd work well and participatively with each other. We don’t always need a commander in charge. A skilled facilitator, on the other hand, enables any number of people to think and act together.
Is there someone with whom you have built up a barrier to communication?
Perhaps you reached an impasse years ago and still work with this person. Perhaps you know what you want to say and do not feel you can say it, or maybe you are not clear at all. For whatever reason, there’s a wall between you.
It’s hard to talk with him or her, and it’s different from the many work relationships where you and others get along fine.
If you would prefer that the wall weren’t there, here are some steps to take.
First, what are your assumptions? We commonly assume that the correct solutions are obvious, the other person’s position is unchangeable, that they are not rational, and that we have no responsibility for the breakdown.
Recognizing and questioning those assumptions can open the door for dialogue.
The next important step is to be careful NOT to jump in and give a good explanation of where you are coming from. Invite a conversation and then listen.
Listening through what the other person has to say may be difficult. Listen without interrupting, and with empathy.
If you find you are not able to listen through, take time to reflect. Maybe take out a piece of paper and write out your thoughts. Speak with a friend or communication coach to sort out what’s in the way and to build the skill of listening well.
If you can do this, there are few barriers to communication that will stand.
What does it take to live up to our ideals?
We all hold certain theories about how people should behave, from our earliest family teachings to the great new technique we learned in a seminar. How fully do we put our theories into practice? It’s easy to see how others are behaving and not necessarily how we are.
We want to believe that we act according to our values. What happens when someone gives us feedback that they don’t experience that from us?
Often, we deny it, or say we didn’t mean it. Or do we take that feedback and really explore what kept us from acting as we believe we should?
Whether we espouse our theories of behavior to others or simply think them to ourselves, it takes effort and attention to get out of automatic responses and be conscious of what we do. Once conscious, it takes practice and sometimes mentorship or coaching to act consistently according to what we believe.
For example, there are plenty of people who don’t think you should speak negatively about someone behind their back. Even so, it’s easy to find instances where we may be venting our feelings and in the process trashing someone else.
Or we think of ourselves as being open and honest, and then find we are holding back information because we fear others’ reactions.
Or we want to be compassionate and then someone steps on our last nerve and we feel justified as we snap their head off.
At that moment, theory holds no sway. We may or may not even be observers of our own behavior. It’s amazing how much we can delete the aspects of what we do that we would not approve of in someone else.
Some people have a basic life position in which they feel superior – they see themselves as more likely to be responsible and effective than others.
Some think they do OK – most of the time, meeting their expectations and not being overly critical of themselves or others.
Some people assume they are falling short, and will find evidence to support their self-criticism.
No matter whether we believe in our superiority, adequacy, or inadequacy, the gap between our intentions and our actions may be equally large.
In fact, when we hold ourselves as superior, it may be harder for us to take in feedback that we aren’t living up to expectations. In this life position we may blunder on even more than someone who assumes they always need to do better.
Once we have recognized that it’s a continual process, not a one-time deal, to bring our intentions into practice, we can set up the internal and external support that we need. Then we are walking our talk more than we are in the common state of denial.
Awareness and willingness to take feedback and work on it are more important than having a perfect shining record that we have to defend.
A Space for Learning
To live up to our ideals, we need
permission for ourselves to make mistakes and to be aware of them,
permission for others to give us feedback,
and opportunities to try out new behaviors.
We also need unconditional support, i.e. to remind ourselves that we are OK and not damaged goods that have to be hidden or fixed.
Whatever our life positions (and tendencies to ask for help or not), a coach can accelerate our learning by helping us with that support, permission, and practice. And playfulness as well.
Acceptance without Complacency
A life paradox is that when we accept something in ourselves or others, it’s easier to change than if we continue to resist and criticize.
Thus a kind of moebius-strip thinking is required: we learn new ideas and hold certain values about how to be in the world, spoken aloud or to ourselves. We have to recognize the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
We need to make changes while accepting ourselves as we are.
That last part, accepting ourselves as we are, may be the bridge to walking our talk. It may also be the most challenging.
(Read this issue of the Syntax Messenger here.)
Research supports repetition
If you really want to get something done, walk down the hall or pick up the phone, send an email and follow up with a text. That’s what a project manager in a recent study did to make sure that her message got through.
Turns out that the more we ask, and the more channels we use, the more likely we are to get action. Clarity of requests is not as essential as repetition (even though we at Syntax still strongly favor clear requests!).
Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge newsletter reported on the surprising results of a study by professors at Harvard and Northwestern. They shadowed 13 project managers across three industries for a total of 256 hours, examining media, timing, and power.
One interesting aspect of the study was that messages to nudge people into action communicated a threat of what would happen if they didn’t act quickly. These were project managers under pressure. They apparently transmitted the urgency they were feeling. Some spelled out the threat, others made it evident more indirectly.
Authority Is No Guarantee
How often and how creatively the requesters communicated varied first of all with their position power.
The managers with direct authority tended to ask once, or maybe twice, maybe just in an email message.
Their messages told recipients of the negative consequences they wanted to avert. It didn’t work very well. These managers more often had to do damage control because the action they counted on was not in fact done.
Other managers who had to influence without direct authority took more initiative and used more channels to communicate. They were the ones who made personal requests and then used other media.
A nuance in the communication was that these managers often conveyed the threat indirectly, leaving it up to the recipient to recognize the urgency. The number of messages and the use of various media increased the odds of the message getting a response.
Go Ahead, Ask Again
Bottom line is a reminder of the adage we heard many years ago: instructions have to be given at least three times. We follow that to advantage when teaching SYNTAX courses.
As they said in Working Knowledge, perhaps it isn’t nagging. Or maybe it is, and it’s just what you have to do in this overly stimulating world of workplace communication!
Either way: be prepared to send crucial information and requests more than once, in more than one medium, if you want people to respond.
What is “fair” and why does it matter?
Joan, who works as a professional organizer, was puzzled when she would offer to help someone out at no charge, then they wouldn’t even show for the scheduled appointment.
Harold, a psychic friend, offered free readings to prospective clients. He found that the ones who called for free never went on to become paying clients.
If you have ever staged a free event, you know that the actual attendance is usually smaller than the number of people who say they will come.
Health care workers who give free sessions may find that the recipients don’t actually get better. Counselors who proffer too much know the result of giving free advice. The person can seem to take your advice and then make the situation even worse because of how they use it! And then, of course, the bad advice you gave is at fault.
It is not unusual for people in the helping professions to feel dubious about asking for money. Whether it is a concern that the value will not be enough to warrant the fee, a sense of not deserving it, guilt for asking, or fear of disapproval, embarrassment, or rejection, it may seem easier to give service away for free or at a discount. Then, having the person not show up or not benefit from what you have given away is a letdown, reinforcing the perception that the service did not have value.
When we give our services away, a funny thing happens. Ramona DiDomenico, founder of the Institute for Transformational Facilitation in Lake Tahoe, first called my attention to this phenomenon. As Ramona pointed out, at a deep level, people actually prefer fair exchange over being out of balance.
Insisting that someone exchange something for your services is not a sign of greed or of a lack of generosity. It is a way to ensure that the value you intend to give is actually received. It is an opportunity for the receiver to recognize the value of investing in themselves.
In negotiation, we understand what it means to say that someone “has skin in the game.” If they have nothing at stake, they will actually bring the value down in their own minds to create a condition of fair exchange.
Business traditions can produce imbalance in the other direction. An old friend of mine had a bias about negotiating being a win-lose proposition. He had been raised in a traditional sales mindset. He always wanted to have the advantage in any deal that he did. His short term gains made others reluctant to negotiate with him over time.
The belief that we should always try to get the better end of the deal goes pretty deep in business cultures. Getting a good deal, and being able to step into the other person’s shoes to ensure that it really works for them too, results in a better deal and a better relationship for both.
In the age of internet marketing, there are many “free” offers out there. We need to realize that the exchange is for our contact information, our attention, and the possibility that we or those in our circle of influence will buy. Free events ask for your time and participation. I know some people who charge a fee for registrants only if they don’t show up.
Many currencies other than money can produce fair exchange. Sometimes we give just for the pleasure of helping. As long as it isn’t a discount to the service or the recipient, and we are not awaiting some form of payback, generosity can be its own reward. Sometimes our willingness to receive is a gift to someone who wants to give.
A good way to stay in balance and make sure that an exchange is fair is for each party to do a “gut check.” Does it really feel right? Or is someone one-up and someone one-down? I have sometimes paid more than I was asked when it felt out of balance. I would rather pay a little more than unconsciously devalue what I am receiving.
Take a look at where your relationships may be out of balance and see what you or the other person may be discounting. Keep your “accounts” current whenever possible. And remember that your investment of time and skill is just as valuable as anyone else’s.
(P.S. This is for humans. Do not try it with cats!)
Tune in to my interview on Hollis Polk’s internet radio show,
“Your Life, Your Relationships”
on Wed., 3/16 @ 3PM PDT!
Listen live at Progressive Radio Network!
Afterward you will be able to download the podcast at that address.
We will start off with the topic of my latest blog on Integrity –
and who knows where we will go from there!
Also, Hollis takes phone calls from listeners during the show.
Hope you can join us.
How often do we betray ourselves or others?
One of our most highly valued – and highly defended – qualities is integrity. Who doesn’t aspire to wholeness, accountability, and honesty in our actions and relationships?
The interesting aspect of this is how we can hold these intentions and then in daily life slide away from them, mostly outside of our own awareness.
We can ask ourselves: what is so important to us about believing in our own integrity?
We know from childhood on that being in integrity – telling the truth, being trusted, taking actions that lead toward what we care about – feels a lot better than lying, cheating, or breaking promises. It is a significant aspect of self-esteem for most people.
Integrity in the sense of making and keeping one’s agreements is practical as well. When you don’t know that someone will do what they say they will do, it’s very hard to organize, plan, and deliver results.
We may not think we are losing integrity when a deadline passes without acknowledgment, or when we make excuses to ourselves for not doing what we promised.We aren’t living up to our own expectations. Then we tend to get out of integrity with others as well.
Bit by bit, not keeping agreements without renegotiating them nibbles away at both integrity and self-esteem.
I would add that this happens when we are not honest with ourselves about our own feelings and needs. Short-term thinking, such as, “I can let it go this time,” leads us not to tell others when we are hurt or something we care about is being trashed. Or, “I shouldn’t be upset. They didn’t mean to step on my toe.”
We gradually lose the sense of our center and our boundaries. The other person doesn’t know they should remove their foot.
This is not to say that we should confront every single disappointment. We need to know where to draw our own line and what is really not worth fussing about.
If we practice reflection, meditation, or other forms of introspection, we can check our internal compass and guide ourselves back into balance.
Sometimes that will involve being courageous enough to clear up an issue with someone else. Doing it with integrity would mean owning that we are speaking about our own responses and feelings, accounting for our part of the situation, and taking responsibility for what we will do in the future to avoid similar breakdowns.
Or we can decide to release our negative feelings without discussing them with the other person – if we really do release them.
The way that I can tell I that I am out of integrity is when my internal conversation is one of justification. I make a case for the rightness of my position and how the other person is wrong. I am more likely to complain than to make a clear request.
Several of the common justifications to watch out for are ways of discounting oneself, the other, or the situation. For example, “She’s just not able to handle feedback,” so I don’t give it. “I am not good at conflict. I’d rather work it out by myself.” “It won’t do any good anyway. Things around here never change.” They definitely won’t change if no one speaks up.
Real integrity requires a good deal of skill, not just good intentions. As we mature, we need to examine our own abilities and keep expanding them.
One of the main benefits of practicing the Syntax of Effective Communication is that it keeps us in integrity. That means knowing our goals, both the big picture and the details (PLAN). It means meeting other people where they are (LINK). Getting and giving relevant accurate information keeps us in integrity (INFORM). Taking in feedback and making changes is part of our integrity (LEARN). And, as mentioned before, making requests and keeping agreements is central (BALANCE).
Is there something you are holding onto and justifying today, on which you could instead take a new approach?
Who are the role models whose integrity you admire?
What are the potholes you tend to fall into and what are you doing to build the muscles that keep you out of them?
Integrity is a huge subject and there is much more worth exploring. The only time we have to live it is today. May these thoughts inspire and encourage us as we step through today in wholeness, accountability, and above all, honesty with ourselves.