Recently I got a haircut. Usually, not an event to write home about, this one was in two ways. First of all, the haircut was great, and reasonably priced. If anyone moves to Kansas City and wants to know a great stylist send me an email. Secondly though, the stylist made a point on which I think it is worth elaborating.
She mentioned about how she talks to clients when they ask questions about colors, styles, and cuts. She talked about how she does her best to make sure that when she relays that information she does so in a way that makes the customer feel enlightened, but not talked down to. This made me think in general about the way we relay information in the workplace.
People ask us questions all the time at work. Especially if you teach, like me, you are likely to get 100 questions a day about both the little, and the larger things in life. I would like to suggest that when we are answering the questions of others, that usually at least two things are happening. One, we are relaying the content information requested, and two, we are relaying our opinion about the question itself, and by extension, the questioner. So what kind of perceptions are we inadvertently telling our customers and coworkers that we have of them? This is a small list I came up with after just one day of listening to people answer questions.
“You have still got more room to grow and I want to push you to get there because I would like to see you achieve your potential.”
Instead, my students have heard some version of how much I do not like them, and understood how mean I am.
No one likes to get the content answers they weren't hoping for to their questions, so disappointment, frustration, and anger can always cloud an ability to hear the underlying positive message being given. However, if we are not being conscious of the underlying message we are giving it can also easily push people to ignore valuable content in the message itself. After all, how many of us, in a moment of pique, have rejected worthwhile advice because the person who said it came across as so much of an arrogant know-it-all.
Let’s face it, in the workplace people are bound to not know us nearly as well as our friends and family. They cannot read between the lines of what we say and understand what we mean. Therefore, as business professionals it is our responsibility in order to help our clients and to grow our business that we are consciously aware of the messages we are sending to those around us, both in what we say and in what we don’t. The devil is in the details and the nuanced messages we send out to those around us daily can have a powerful affect on our success our failure in the workplace.
The irony of writing a piece like this is to leave people guessing about my intentions while writing about how people need to be conscious of their intentions. So, let me be clear. I find communication interesting in general and the nuances of communication in the workplace even more so. I would love to hear how people in different fields perceive the importance of delicacy in how we relay information to each other, so I welcome feedback in that area especially. However, reactions of all kinds are very welcome.
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