Posts Tagged 'Awareness'

Making an Ass of U and Me

Do you ever have those AHA moments? Those moments when something becomes so obvious to you and you want to kick yourself for not realising it before hand. Do these moments come when you realise that you have made assumptions and may be the assumption is wrong – or does this just happen to me?

Over the last few weeks or so I’ve been registering some of the assumptions that I and those around me have made.

There was the occasion when I assumed that the person I was talking with would remember a conversation we’d had 3 years ago – it took me a while to realise they didn’t.

The time when I was pitching for some work and the potential client had assumed that I would do the work for an almost non-existent budget and I’d assumed they knew what the market rate would be.

And there have been numerous times at home where I’ve made decision based on assumptions about what would be OK for my partner only to realise later that a conversation would have been useful.

At some point after assumptions have been made, it’s dawned on me that assuming really is making an Ass of U and Me. The implications of this can be pretty intense with relationships suffering and time being wasted. When we make assumptions it tends to be due to laziness – laziness in our thinking and laziness in our communication.

It seems to me that a few simple techniques, once remembered will make a big difference and reduce the amount of time spent going up dark alleyways.

The techniques to embed are:

Ask yourself what assumptions you are making and whether or not they are reasonable – for instance, I assumed that the potential client would be paying market rates and should have checked this with them much earlier in our conversations than I did as we both invested considerable time in our discussions before we reached this point. It turned out that our assumptions didn’t match.

Ask questions to clarify, check and inform – I so easily could have asked the ex colleague whether or not they remembered us talking about on-boarding several years ago, before diving in to the conversation. This would have brought us to the same place at the start of the conversation.

Be clear about the assumptions you are making – it’s sometimes worth stating up front what assumptions you are making. If we go back to my communication mishap I made a number of assumptions and it would have been more productive to state some of these upfront to check if the group were OK with them.

What assumptions have you made that have got in the way, led to conversations stumbling or led to you and others going in different directions. I’m assuming we all do this or is it just me?

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Self awareness of your communication

I recently attended an industry forum where a panel of speakers were giving their views on different subjects. Within minutes of the event starting I was intrigued by the influence one person had on the tone and success of the event. This person was the MC – let me describe briefly what happened.

It was early morning and a lot of people had made their way to the event in anticipation of hearing some insights from industry leaders. All started well with the MC introducing each of the speakers – this was as far as it got before he made blunder number one.

Having introduced each of the male panelists in a professional way, his intro to the one female on the panel was to describe her as beautiful. Whatever you’re personal views on this type of comment, what I noticed was that the MC had immediately put most of the women in the audience off side. Given that it was probably 75% women this was a big chunk of the audience who were now wondering why they’d got out of bed.

From here there were several further blunders by the MC, including a few rather weak jokes that attacked people in the room and one joke that could potentially be considered as racist. This was followed by a lack of understanding of the role of the MC. As the event went on he seemed to think that it was necessary for him to also give his opinion on each question put to the panel, by this time he had lost the respect of parts of the audience.

So why am I telling you this story? There were several learning’s for me as I observed what was happening:

1. Having a self-awareness about the words you use, the response you are receiving and the particular communication role you have are fundamental to good communication

2. If you are standing in front of an audience it makes sense to think about the audience, what their hot buttons will be and how to involve them

3. Creating rapport is fundamental for effective communication

4. There are times when less is more or to put it differently speaking is not always the same as communicating

As you will know from my previous blog on communication mishaps, I totally understand that there are times when we don’t read the audience right, come out with the wrong words etc. The question that I’m left with though is whether or not the communicator had any self-awareness about the impact he had and will use this self-awareness to do things differently in the future. It’s through this self-awareness that our communication style can grow and become more versatile.

Saying what’s on your mind

As an advocate for clear and authentic communication I would tend to endorse the idea that we should say what’s on our mind. I do this though with a big HOWEVER……

Some people would view the idea of saying what’s on their mind as being absolutely the right thing to do. The HOWEVER with this is that it often goes with the idea of engaging mouth before brain and the repercussions can be widespread and on occasion damaging.

For others the idea of saying what’s on their mind would fill them with dread, bring out the cold sweats and cause lock-jaw. These people are at the other end of the scale and engage brain before mouth, letting their brain convince them that they can’t speak up.

So where’s the happy medium and how do any of us reach this point in every conversation that we have? Whilst an important part of being authentic is to say what’s on your mind I think there are some caveats around it. For instance:
– Be conscious of what you want to achieve by saying what ever it is you want to say
– Check out what response you may get
– Be ready for a potentially emotional response

Let me give you an example – last week I met a man who I hadn’t seen for 3 to 4 years. I know him as being a jolly and friendly man so when he greeted me with a smile on his face and said ” You’re obviously enjoying the good life as you look chubbier” I hesitated. In this instance:
– I’m not sure he was conscious of what he wanted to achieve by saying this. I suspect he thought he was being funny
– He certainly didn’t think about the response he would get.
– I don’t think he was ready for an emotional response. I wonder what would have happened if I’d burst in to tear or started commenting on his own appearance?

This really does highlight for me that we do influence relationships one conversation at a time and that every conversation has consequences. So finding the right balance takes thought and most importantly awareness. I know there are times when I could do with thinking more before starting a conversation and saying what’s on my mind? What about you – any experiences of getting it very right or very wrong?