Archive for January, 2015

Hints and tips: Dealing with awkward people–Tip 2

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

A pair of psychologists called Alan A. Cavaiola, PhD, and Neil J. Lavender, PhD surveyed more than 1,100 employees and captured their thoughts in a book called “Toxic Co-workers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job”.  This is the second in a series of short blogs with  tips based on their work.

2. Make your needs known:  It maybe that the person simply isn’t communicating with you in a way that works for you.  As someone who is a bit dyslexic, if you give me a long complex verbal instruction, I simply can’t process that.  It is a bit like I have a two sentence audio buffer and the third sentence overwrites sentence one, so I need either to take notes, or better still, fully understand what you want so I can recreate the sequence from my own understanding.  We all have a preference for how we take on board information, we are either audio, visual or kinaesthetic, which is a posh way of saying we see it, hear it or feel it.  A clue is often there in our language “Tell me or “Show me”, or “I don’t get it..”  My brother, who is an Aikido black belt and coach, spotted the fact that my learning style is kinaesthetic.  I have to feel it in my body in order to remember it, I can’t replay a video tape or audio tape in my head.

This advice goes beyond communication needs and style though.  Often we misinterpret what other people mean, so before assuming the other person is at fault or being a b*tch or b*stard, try to check your understanding.  Steven Covey in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” tells us to seek first to understand then be understood, which is also echoed in Aikido and their rule to put yourself in your partner’s place.  Use non-accusatory language, and say something like “When you do….. I feel …..  What I would prefer is if you could do…, that would enable us to ….”  This format provides clear context and explanation of the issue, takes ownership of the feelings, makes clear what will work for you and the benefit (to them) of doing this.

The rest of this series:

  1. Tip 1

The slippery walk… the Change Journey

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Regular readers will know I’m a walker.  Yesterday we were out on the South Downs and at the end of a lovely (but muddy) winter’s walk, we had to descend to our final destination.  It turned out that the path we needed to take was not signposted, and only spotted by my faithful guide because a) we were looking for it and b) there were bike tracks exiting from it that were marked with chalky tyre prints.  Like so many footpaths (and why this is, given that almost all of us have two feet, is a total mystery!) the path was narrow and not wide enough for both feet.  It was very steep, and the drop-off to the right was enough to make me not want to even look at it!  The final feature was mud.  Not just any mud but ultra slippy, chalk mud.  Potters glaze their pots with something called ‘slip’, which is a similar consistency, and I now know why it is called this!! Trying to negotiate this descent was more like skating than walking.

Why is this muddy tale relevant to you, oh business leader?  The thing is, our stroll is very similar to your Change Journey.  We knew where we needed to end up.  We could even see it.  However, we weren’t there yet.  We had to focus on each and every step we needed to take, one step at a time, and we each had to go at our own pace.  Each step was a chance for an inglorious and messy upset, and yet we needed to continue.  Sometimes Change is messy, and you just need to keep plodding on, and if by any chance the path you have chosen is just too difficult, you have go back and find another way down.

Hints and tips: Dealing with awkward people–Tip 1

Monday, January 26th, 2015

A pair of psychologists called Alan A. Cavaiola, PhD, and Neil J. Lavender, PhD surveyed more than 1,100 employees and captured their thoughts in a book called “Toxic Co-workers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job”.  This is the first in a series of short blogs with  tips based on their work.

1.  Reflect on your own history: When we get upset by someone or something, the event can be like pulling a trigger and we go BANG! Not surprisingly, we refer to this state as being triggered.  The key thing to know about this is that the person or event isn’t so much the issue (upsetting as it maybe in its own right) rather it is the place it takes you to.  It triggers off our primitive Flight/Fight mechanism, and depending on our nature we either come out swinging or run and hide.  So the first hint in the book is that this may not be about them but about you.  So go somewhere quiet and safe and take the time to ponder what it is that really upset you.  What did you feel?  What does it remind you off?  If what is happening in the office is an echo of things that happened in the playground, then perhaps you have more to deal with than the person or situation at work.  None of this is to say that there might not be a genuine issue with them, rather that you may need to go deeper to get to the root of the issue.

How to understand the mechanics of someone’s first impressions (and influence them positively!)

Monday, January 19th, 2015

We all seem to think that we are good at reading people and ‘trust’ those first impressions and it takes a lot of work, or time and  positive experience to change this if we didn’t like you.  Conversely, we tend assume that others will see our greatness, our potential and love us (just like our Mum’s!) this is called the transparency illusion, when we believe others will correctly interpret our positive signals.  In truth, people aren’t so good at reading these micro-signals we give off and one looks very much like the other.  Also, we often judge on relatively little data and some of us don’t always pay full attention to others especially if the initial impressions are negative.

So what criteria or tests do we use to judge others in these initial moments?  We want to know if this other person is a potential threat or a potential resource; if they are like us or not, and if they are not like us, are the differences useful and stimulating or threatening?  So we view people through what Heidi Grant Halvorson in the Harvard Business Review describes as  3 lenses:-

  1. The Trust lens,
  2. The Power lens and
  3. The Ego lens

First we want to know if we can trust them; are they friend or foe.  Next we want to assess if they are more or less powerful than us.  This one is a little more complex in as much as it works a little differently in social and business situations.  If it is a work situation and we are appealing to someone with more perceived power than us (such as a boss or a potential customer), they need us to prove to them that we are potentially of value to them.  In effect, we have to earn their attention.  Finally, as we all need to feel good about ourselves, we scan for ‘evidence’ that we are better than them. 

In order to jump safely through these ‘hoops’ we can do a few things to help our case.  We need to amplify our signals a little to ensure they are both perceived and received.  It is a little like the driving test, where you can’t just check your mirror, you have to show that you have done so.  Clearly articulate how you can be helpful to them.  Use words like we  rather than I and you, to show you are on their side.  There are more hints and tips in the main article.  However, regular readers of this site will be familiar with the idea that we all filter our impressions and thoughts through lenses, check out the Reality Model.  They will also understand how important it is to build rapport, and there is lots of stuff here.

Persuasion and priorities

Monday, January 12th, 2015

People are much more persuaded by their own logic and reasons than ours, no matter how clever we like to think we are, so rather than banging our heads against a wall of their logic.  There is a better way.  If I push, they will push back (interestingly, this is not just confirmed Newton with his third law of motion, but is a key principle of Aikido.)  So, try this; ask the person where this thing sits on their personal priority scale, using a scale of 1-10.  Imagine you have asked your teenage child to tidy their room or a work colleague to look at something for you.  Assuming they don’t rate it as 1, rather than asking them to tell why they think it is that unimportant, ask them why they haven’t rated it lower.  It is counter-intuitive but this forces them to explain why it has some value.  You are now both on the same side of the fence and just debating how valuable it might be rather than whether it has a value.  It is far easier to move someone when you are travelling in the same direction than when you oppose them.


Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

I found this wonderful card, which sadly I can’t share here, but it beautifully illustrates how one can look at the same data in two totally different ways.  It shows two overweight ladies sitting in front of a plate of cakes and one says to the other “According to my BMI chart, I’m too short!” Mostly we see the results we expect to find, so our own preconceptions are a key to what we discover.  That is why having an outsider look at a something, even if he or she knows less about the subject than you can open up new vistas.  I often feel that asking ‘stupid’ questions is a part of my job!

We also tend to receive the messages we expect to get when others talk.  So, if I think ‘John’ is clever I will find clever ways to interpret what he says, if I think him a fool I will probably listen far less attentively and be far more dismissive of anything  that he says that I don’t understand. How many misunderstandings are rooted in one party saying something and meaning A, and having the other person listen to the same words and take away meaning B.  This can be affected by how we feel too, so if we feel guilty, or insecure, then we are more likely to suspect we are being slighted or belittled. 

So perhaps next time you are confronted with data or a message, you should check if standing it on its head makes just as much sense and if it does, taking the time to find out which interpretation is more valid or useful.