As someone that has worked on different continents, countries, and in different roles, I’m starting to see a pattern emerge. It’s really quite simple: A lot of the time, people just don’t listen.
I was recently sat in a corporate staff meeting. We got the swanky client meeting room with the Video Calling to patch in other teams from around the country, and even had someone come talk to us about some new policy changes. The policy changes came as a bit of a shock to everyone, and soon the mood in the room turned tense.
My point, though, is that the questions being asked -and answered- were very interesting to me. Since I was new, I just took the policy changes as something that I just had to learn as a good habit. For the more senior team members, obviously not so. They all had their concerns (and they were very valid, so I’m not saying they were being unreasonable at all), but it was clear that there were wires being crossed in the increasingly tense exchange.
When we feel nervous, or uncomfortable, or even when we feel like we are being put on the spot, we tend to stop listening.
This can happen in many situations. Some people don’t like being told what to do, they might be belligerent even though you are trying to help. People might only hear part of the question when you are trying to clarify something.
When it comes down to it, this all has to do with your priorities and your ego. The higher your ego is, the ruder you are because you’re looking out for yourself as number one and the hell with everyone else. You might not think you’re being rude, but dude, let me tell you, if your ego is your priority then yes you are being rude. The higher your priority is, the more direct you are going to be (regardless of ego), because of how much you are freaking out about getting it done.
And if you are both egotistical to the nines, and are putting something on high priority, well, then, you’re pretty much an a***hole.
People don’t respond well when you are trying to force a point across without listening. Because you’re so wrapped up in getting your shit done, you stop listening. When you’ve worked travel, admin, reception, and PA as much as I have, everything is a priority and everything has to be done now. Um, no. If no one’s life is in danger or in danger of losing a load of money on something, then I will get to it when I get to it.
Most of the time, most of us aren’t quite so extreme when it comes to conflict, or even priorities. They’re just slight micro-aggressions that people might pick up on. I’ve picked up enough over the last few weeks to write a blog post about it.
Basically, what I want to tell people in general is… just take a breath. And listen.
Most of the time, people’s priorities are different, and that’s why their questions are phrased a certain way, or certain words are used. And just because your priorities don’t align, doesn’t mean that you can’t all get along. Give it a go: take away your priorities for just 5 minutes, and most importantly, take away your ego.
Most of the time, you’ll find you don’t have very much to prove to others, so take a freaking chill pill. Ego exists when we are not secure within ourselves or of the role we play in our community. Be that work, friendship circle, family, sports team, whatever. We try and overcompensate by being unsure by overcompensating with ego: I know all, I am all-understanding, I am great, I don’t need help. But you’re forgetting one fundamental thing: by taking up all the “all-knowing” space, you are putting other people at the defensive, and that’s when egos clash and conflict arises. If you first take a step back, and even if just play-act as the one that isn’t all-knowing, you will greatly increase the chances of your ability to communicate with others.
Because when people don’t feel the need to put on a front with you, and vice versa, you can actually communicate better. “Let’s learn together” is a better mantra than “This is what you need to know” when you are trying to communicate from a strained situation.