In the prior Topics, you’ve been learning conversational moves to take the heat out of conflict when it is already present in your workplace interactions. Now, let’s turn to the moves you can make to avoid the conflict in the first place.
You want your audience to pay attention to you when you are speaking, right? The best listening can occur when we do our part to help our audience listen. Doing this starts with insulating our audience from the numerous workplace triggers that vie for their attention.
Remember from Week 3 that our ability to listen — and the skillfulness we bring to how we listen — is influenced by how well our most basic human concerns are met.* When those concerns are not met, or when we perceive them to be under threat, we are at risk of being triggered.
Consider the following thoughts that regularly show up for our audiences (or ourselves) in meetings:
- This meeting is a waste of my time. I have a million better things I could be doing with my time.
- Why am I in this meeting? What do they expect me to contribute? Was I supposed to do anything to prepare? I hope no one asks me something I don’t know how to answer.
- Did she make me look bad just now?
- Did they ask me for my input before deciding that?
- Did he just get credit for my work?
- I have no idea what they’re talking about. Everyone else in this room is so much smarter than me.
- Seriously, that guy got the job I wanted?
- No one’s listening to me.
If unmanaged, triggers and the responses that follow from them undermine the ability to influence and lead because they distract our audience. This is because, when triggered, our audience will tend to revert to habitual listening, which you learned about in Week 1.**
Defensive and limited, habitual listening is not really listening at all. We perceive events as happening to us, rather than seeing ourselves as active participants in our lives. We are no longer creative, fully engaged, or participatory. Instead, we may hide (Week 2), short-circuit reality (Week 3), fail to show up with executive presence (Week 4), or complain instead of making powerful requests (Week 5), and we can’t see the skillful moves available to us to get things back on track (Week 6).
It’s perfectly normal to have the concerns described in the list above. We are all human, after all. These concerns are rattling around for each of us in these dazzlingly powerful brains of ours… all the time, just waiting to be triggered.
- Instead of letting these concerns take us – and the people we want to influence and work with – on a wild and crazy ride to never-never land, we want to understand and manage these concerns to the best of our ability. What happens if you think of helping your audience listen as a core part of your job, equally important to the technical details of your work?
The next set of learnings — process moves to incorporate into how you lead — will help you create interactions that avoid triggering landmines and that also lead to deeper understanding, more engagement, and ultimately, higher impact for you and the people you work with.
*Once basic survival needs are taken care of, most of us share the core needs for contribution, meaning, autonomy, connection, and community.
**Remember from our discussion about being for-the-business in your Lesson on executive presence? As you might recall, being for-the-business calls on us to walk ourselves back from our triggers. In Week 4, you learned a process to help yourself do this when it’s you that’s triggered. In this Lesson, we are working with the other side: when the people around you are at risk of being triggered and what you can do to navigate the situation like a Challenger.