When poor communication happens, it’s very easy for us humans to place the blame on others. It’s only natural. We are competitive creatures by nature, so when an argument ensues, of course it’s the other person’s fault. In communication we call this the “Self-Serving Bias.” Research shows that when something positive happens, we tend to attribute that success to our internal abilities – things that are in our control. On the other hand, when something negative happens, we tend to place the blame on external causes –things that are out of our control. For example, think about how students often explain their grades to their parents. If they receive an "A" in a class, usually it's because they worked so hard right? However, if they receive an "F" in a class, usually it's because the teacher was too difficult, or the textbook didn't make any sense, or the workload was ridiculous. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, the “Self-Serving Bias” is alive and well in our daily communication acts. Think back to some of the misunderstandings that you've encountered over the past few months. Did you really sit back, reflect, and come to the conclusion that in some of those situations perhaps YOU could have, and should have, done something differently? I didn't think so. The misunderstanding was the other person’s fault right?
If this is your attitude, then congratulations! You are already a jackass. But if you're still not sure if you fit the mold, here are 5 steps to follow to ensure that you too can become, or continue to be a jackass.
1. Interrupt them while they’re talking. Don’t let them finish a sentence.
You already pretty much know what they’re going to say anyway right? People hold no surprises for you. You have them all figured out. As a matter of fact, if only they would stay quiet and listen to you more, then everybody would be better off. And if they do have the audacity to expect the conversation to actually be a two-way conversation, then just talk louder. Overpowering the other person with volume always works to make sure they come around to see things your way.
2. Multitask while in conversation.
You live in a fast-paced society. You have places to be, things to do, and unimportant conversations to squeeze in between traveling to those places and doing those things. It’s absolutely ridiculous that some people insist that you stop what you’re doing and pay attention to them while having a conversation either in person or via phone. Don’t they realize that you are a master at multitasking? So, go ahead and keep reading those text messages and updating your Twitter and Facebook accounts while they’re talking. Maintaining eye contact and looking for nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and body posture are overrated anyway. Additionally, what kind of dumb-ass can’t talk on the phone and work on the computer, or watch TV, or flip through the radio stations at the same time? I mean, as long as you continue to give them the “uh-huh” and “yeah” responses during the conversation, they should be satisfied. After all, they couldn't have been saying anything important because if there was anything important to say, you would have been the one saying it. (Refer to Rule #1).
3. Always talk about what you've done and your accomplishments.
Let’s face it. People come to you because they want to hear all about you, so why not give them some advice while you’re gracing them with your presence? And if they even dare try to share a memorable moment or bore you with the details of their recent promotion, then
just quickly turn the tables and bring up something that you have done that was even more impressive. Continue to give them advice, don’t give up on them. If they were just more like you and take your advice and follow your lead, then they too will be successful.
4. Don’t worry about misunderstandings. It’s their fault anyway.
Your intentions and the messages you send are always clear. Crystal even. It’s not your fault that others misconstrue what you say or take things the wrong way. They should be able to see things from your perspective after all. And when they do listen to you incorrectly, it’s not your job to try to explain things differently so that they can better understand it. It has nothing to do with how you phrase things. It’s obvious that their perspective is the wrong perspective. They should be able to come to that conclusion easily enough.
5. Tell them they’re stupid when you think they’re being stupid. Even indirectly. They need to hear it.
Facebook is an excellent place to tell your friends just how dumb you think they really are. Post something like, “People who voted for (fill in the blank) are stupid.” Or how about, “Democrats are anti-American.” Or, “Republicans only care about the rich.” And your friends could really use some of your advice where it concerns religion. Certainly they don’t really think the First Amendment is serious about that whole “freedom of … “ and “freedom from religion” thing. You know for sure that you are absolutely right on that one so don’t hold back. Let them know their religion is the fast-track train to Hell. That’ll win friends over every time. And if it doesn't, then screw them anyway. You don’t need diversified opinions and debate in your life anyway. You are always right. They just need to accept that.
“What in the Hell am I doing here? What was I thinking?”
Those words continuously swirled in my brain, knocking me off balance like some type of pinball going for the high score while it painfully clanged around the synapses inside my skull. But that’s not what was really making my head hurt. That would be the ginormous Marine who stepped on the Greyhound screaming “get off my bus!”Drill instructors barked and recruits scrambled to the yellow footprints.
That’s when the real fun began.
Anyone who has served in the United States Marine Corps will have absolutely no problem identifying with the chaos and sheer intensity of those first moments that served as the genesis for earning the title of Marine. It’s a memory that is scored into your mind’s eye for the rest of your days. Whether you made the Corps a career, or like myself, you served one term, the lessons we learned as Marines will never be forgotten. And when we think back to the beginning, you’ll notice that we don’t lament the day our feet stood on those yellow footprints. We smile. We share a funny story. We laugh about how often we found ourselves in the sandpit. And we regard our drill instructors with a respect and thankfulness that back then, we never would have thought possible. But what is it about the Corps that still bands us together? What is it about our experiences that have connected us all? Why is it that when others see a Marine, they see a determination and inner strength that is mirrored in all Marines?
It comes from the three core values that Marines hold sacred above all other values. Honor. Courage. Commitment. These are the lessons we can learn from Leathernecks.
Above all, Marines are taught they are to live by a strict code of integrity. This isn't just about not lying and cheating. This is about treating others with dignity and respect. Recognizing that accountability isn't just something to expect from others, it’s demanded from one’s self. Commitment and dedication to being honest and truthful aren't just words. They are actions that are to be practiced every single day.
“Fear is weakness leaving the body.” That’s a great line to get ourselves pumped up, but what does it really mean? It has to do with having not only the physical courage, but the mental courage to do what is right – regardless of the outcome. It’s an understanding that sometimes tough decisions have to be made and that the right choice will not always be the easy choice. And many times that means putting the needs of others before your own.
Simply put – don’t give up. This is the determination to continue when everybody else has already thrown in the towel. This is the dedication to see things through, even when others no longer see the point. This is the promise that Marines make to themselves and to others that they will not quit. They will see things through to the end. And they will not leave anyone behind.
These are the lessons from the Leathernecks. We needn't have had the experience of the yellow footprints to learn from them, but we should learn from them nonetheless.
The importance of effective communication in the workplace cannot be emphasized enough. And even though we all understand how effective communication is absolutely critical in helping a business succeed, too many businesses don’t spend enough time focusing on developing this important skill in the workforce. And when I say workforce, I mean from top to bottom and side to side.
Regarding the interactions with this person you “can’t stand to work with,” I want to you to remember this most important next sentence. The message you send may not be the message that’s received.This is always my first lesson in any communication class I teach. All of us have been in a situation where someone else was offended by something we said. Whether it was intentional or not doesn’t even matter. That’s not the point. And I think this is something to keep in mind any time you’re dealing with a conflict at work. For example, when you ask your co-worker a question, is it possible that his intention is to provide a complete and thorough answer? From his perspective, is he answering the question without leaving any loose ends? But from your perspective, his answers are always just way too long?
This actually reminds me of the differences in how I communicate compared to how my husband communicates. I am very concise in
my answers (well, when I'm not answering complex questions). I don’t provide more than what I think is necessary to answer the question. My motto: keep it simple, no clutter. I'm terrible to talk to on the phone. My husband, on the other hand, will provide a 10-minute answer to my 2-minute answer. What’s the difference? He usually provides the intricate details that I would view as unnecessary “fluff” or “trivial.” But to him, he’s painting an accurate, complete picture. He’s making sure that no stone is left unturned and that we are on the same page. It absolutely drives me crazy sometimes! But at the end of the day, I have to ask myself, “Regardless of the long response, did he answer the question?” So I will challenge you to do the same. At the end of the day, did your co-worker answer the question? If the
answer’s yes, then that’s really what matters. Just do a brain-dump on the details that you either already know or don’t need to know and keep what you need.
But there’s still another way to look at this. Your remark about his answers usually ending with him talking about himself and his accomplishments caught my attention. I consulted with friend and HR expert, Ms. Susan Pinkston, Department Head of Management & Supervisory Development at Savannah Technical College, who offered some of her own insight. She said one issue that can arise between co-workers is when one is attracted to the other, which can cause friction. She said that it sounds like could possibly be
attracted to you and is trying to impress you with all of self-focused talk. On the other hand, he could also be intimidated by you and is trying to “build himself up.”
Let’s move on to the next issue you raised – correcting him on errors. Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Conflict in any relationship is inevitable. We are human after all. But this does not mean that we should be disrespectful and hurtful to one another. So, if this person
becomes defensive, yells at you and is in your face, his behavior is unacceptable and should be brought to the supervisor’s attention. But before we get to the HR stuff, let me ask a question. Are you his supervisor? Or, were you put in charge of training this person? Or, are you considered senior to him in rank, so the expectation is that you would monitor and correct him on any errors he makes? Do you see where I’m going with this series of questions? If the answer is “no” to all of the above, then I’ll repeat the sentence from earlier. The message you send may not be the message that’s received. Your intentions may be pure. You could truly just be concerned about making sure he is learning so that he can become better at his job. But is that how he sees it when you’re correcting his errors? Or is it possible that from his perspective, you’re being nosy and making him look bad? If this is the case, unless you are dealing with life and death situations, you may want to step back from correcting him. If you are dealing with life and death situations, then you should address his mistakes with the appropriate person in charge and let that person do the correcting.
Regardless of the situation, it is absolutely critical that this behavior stop. Ms. Pinkston noted, “This is a toxic environment in which to work, whether it is supervisor/subordinate or co-workers. Yelling and getting in someone’s face is inappropriate in the workplace and borders on creating a ‘hostile environment.’”You sound uncomfortable bringing this issue up to HR, but that is different from asking them or a supervisor to mediate or conduct a conflict resolution session.
In the end, it sounds like this ultimately is a personality conflict. Have you tried talking to him one-on-one about these situations to come to a resolution? That would be the first stage, but it appears like it just might be too late for that. If both of you are required to work closely together, then someone in a higher position needs to conduct a formal conflict resolution session between the two of you. We all know there are two sides to every story – this session will give you both an opportunity to voice your issues in a controlled environment. I hope you do take this next step because no one deserves to feel like they work in a boxing ring.
Jennifer Furlong has 25 years’ experience in the communication field and teaches communication and public speaking courses in the Savannah area. She earned a B.A. and M.A. in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She currently resides in Richmond Hill, Ga. with her family of canines, felines, and humans. Let's be social! Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Just look for Professor SpeechLady. See you in cyberspace.
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