I had to laugh when a friend told me recently that he’d never had trouble finding his shout, but concept of finding his voice was really new to him. When my laughter subsided I was able to assure him that he’s by far not alone! Dynamic tension is a marvelous and necessary source of creative energy in workplace, yet it amazes me that more businesses don’t implode. Often tension present is more destructive than it is generative. From point of contact with customers to executive offices and everywhere in between I’ve watched at Highest Vision as people launch their words like torpedoes designed to obliterate a monstrous enemy or, on contrary, stuff overwhelming frustrations or brilliant ideas until they all but explode from them. Often higher stakes, more dysfunctional communication!
The first impulse for many who use bulldozer approach is to say that they don’t care how they sound or how their message is received. They’re convinced that they’ve earned right, that it’s only way to get something done, or that recipient of their wrath deserves everything they’ve sent their way—and then some! On other hand, many of those who are unwilling to put their voices out there have developed a “learned helplessness” (no one listens anyway), hold a belief that they don’t have intelligence, right or authority to offer their perspective, or they’ve experienced repercussions and will no longer risk having their thoughts and feelings used against them. Rather than being overbearing, these individuals have voices that are offered as mere squeaks, are targeted at wrong people, or are used long after they could be of value.
Unfortunately costs associated with these two communication extremes are more than individuals or organizations that employ them can responsibly overlook. Finding our voices, whether that means having to draw back to find them or having to excavate them from very depths of our souls, is about reclaiming vitality that fuels meaningful successes.
The sad irony of poor communication is that when people are removed from person or situation that has evoked their specific reaction they can describe in detail what effect their yelling, demanding, or stifled voices will have on outcome of exchange. They know that one “side" will either angrily and resentfully capitulate while then seeking to undermine other, or two will get locked into a power battle in which, ultimately, everyone loses. The obvious losses include: alienated customers, unspoken resentments that leave colleagues working against rather than with each other, and a diminished bottom line.
Specifically these things translate into lost time, energy, money, and productivity, as well as agility to respond quickly to changes in one’s industry or economy. Increased stress, compromised health and outcomes that are far less than what is possible can send people involved scurrying to find a more amenable work environment.
If people know results aren’t going to serve them well either in short or long-term, why do so many insist on staying stuck in ineffective communication patterns? After all, as is so often quoted, definition of insanity is to repeat same behaviors over and over expecting different results.
Unfortunately, many simply aren’t conscious of their own pattern, believe that it is caused by others or environment, and/or don’t know what to do instead. For some they’ve simply become accustomed to “power battles” and believe that when there are issues that people feel passionately about these dynamics are unavoidable.
How can you speak out without alienating others?
****Check your intent and be thoughtful of your delivery**** Is your goal to respectfully communicate? Address issue or behavior without making it a personal attack. Use person’s name (when appropriate) and a compassionately assertive tone of voice—even when your voice must also convey an intensity of feeling or conviction. Avoid labels, name-calling or use of “trigger words.” (“You arrogant, self-centered, manipulative jerk” has never been kind of phrase that invites thoughtful discussion!)