Monday, April 1, 2013

Defensive Listening

We all know what it means to get defensive. Typically there is a negative connotation, even though its really more about our survival instincts than something negative. If we feel we're being attacked, or criticized, we naturally get a little (or a lot) defensive.

At least I do...or should I say I used to.

Talk Is Cheap

Part of my job is to strategize the most effective way to handle very complex and difficult situations. I'm not talking about whether or not to launch a new product line, or to tweak the ad campaign. No, what I'm talking about are the behind-the-scenes, in your face, "thank God I don't have your job Jay" situations. 

I'm not good at very many things, but I do have a degree of confidence when it comes to these moments. These interactions are important. They affect people's lives on a very personal level, even though we often try to describe work as anything but personal.

It's just business! Really? Have you ever received difficult feedback and left the meeting clicking your heels because it was 'just business?' I didn't think so.

Listen First
When we're faced with the unenviable task of delivering critical feedback it is essential that we listen first. What is that? It means thinking ahead to what those words will sound like to the other person. It means getting over ourselves and putting the other person's self-esteem ahead of our own fears and insecurities about having to give this feedback. It means being so professional that you are one step ahead of yourself...let alone the other person involved.

How About You
Are you so caught up in the self-induced stress of delivering a difficult message that you completely forget about the other person involved? Are you capable of staying one step ahead of yourself to take your work, and your professional reputation to a whole new level?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

1 comment:

  1. Good Morning,

    As an INTJ personality type, I normally deliver my own difficult feedback in front of the mirror, in ways I would never address others (without good provocation). I think if I understand your article though, it's about taking a step back and looking at the dynamics of interpersonal communication. Sometimes I get to a point where I try to remove myself from the conversation and look at the interaction from a neutral third-party perspective. So if I'm observing this interaction as a stranger just happening by, what would I think of it? Is it productive, or has it just become a barking (insert other creative adjective) contest? Who's being a jerk, and who's being professional?

    As a systems analyst, I sit in on meetings where feedback is delivered in less than preferable ways all the time. It usually has something to do with who thinks they've been on a project longer, who thinks they have the higher rank, etc. Rarely are heated discussions focusing on the actual deliverables, in my opinion.

    I think experience does help to some degree in being able to deal with these things as well. As a former cop and a vet, I've been threatened, shot at, spat on, called words I don't even know, and of course the occasional rock side the Kevlar that I didn't see coming, so I still find much of it laughable when I hear jabs and pokes in the conference room.