If we really saw and heard everything around us all the time, we would be truly overwhelmed – so we filter. The challenge is to realise we do a lot of this subconsciously, based on a whole range of factors including the environment we are in, how busy we are, our previous experiences, the skills of the others we are dealing with as well as our own skills and our preferences. And for preferences read “bias” – we are biased towards or away from someone, based on what we know or assume about them already (and biased against the word bias)
As an example, a colleague has been working on their communication skills and practising being more assertive, rather than passive, in business meetings, carefully selecting with whom they practise. They are then invited, with a few other colleagues to a higher profile meeting, and they are discussing an issue where people don’t agree on a part of the actions/decisions. Some have seen the person become more assertive and are not surprised when they will deal with this perfectly well – however others, who haven’t seen them for a while, are surprised to see them taking part at all. Hopefully, they now pay more attention; however, they may stop listening at first, while they start to adjust their view of this person. In which case, the newly assertive person may become less assertive instead and either:
- “revert to type” and go back to being passive, as the reaction they got was unhelpful or
- become more aggressive, as they decide to push their point beyond reason
While many people say they value improved communication at work, when someone does something different, including when they improve what they do, communication may stall while others adjust themselves to the new behaviours and skills.
Crucially, we need to recognise when we are not listening, what is stopping us doing so, and therefore, what we are going to do about it. Only then can we listen actively and improve our own skills.
If you would like to discuss how we can help you identify where the communication can be improved within your organisation and deliver a targeted coaching and training programme, please contact us.