Here is a source of confusion about work relationships:
Being informative doesn’t mean you’re being open.
Even though most people – even private people – would say that they’re open to having open conversations – most people don’t know how to create an open conversation.
Which is kind of ironic given that it’s the relationships in which openness exists that you come to work for because they pay emotionally.
Instead, day-to-day work conversation are low open.
There are people (maybe even yourself) that are comfortable with talking – but the talking is absent of feeling, sensations, thoughts, insight, reflection, story – anything that would actually make what you’re hearing or saying feel worth your while.
(You’ve experienced this right?)
Call it “chit chat” or “shooting the breeze” or “filler conversation” or “just facts” – none of these stand in for genuine connection. And you wonder why work feels so hard sometimes. It takes monumental amounts of energy to try to engage in energy draining dynamics.
Low open conversations top the list of energy draining dynamics.
You’ll know you’re on the receiving end of someone being informative (but not open) because you have the experience of boredom and/or wish the interaction to be over.
You’re struggling to stay interested.
It’s the kind of conversing that doesn’t acknowledge that it’s you who’s listening (you could be anyone really).
Nor does it take into consideration what you might be actually interested in. You’re not really being paid attention to yet you are expected to participate in the conversation.
Just think about scheduled office meetings: Updates that are void of any kind of human experience.
The Controller had problems with the system over the weekend. The Marketing Department reports that website traffic is up 5% when it was down 2% last month. Students recruited from Asia are on the rise … this information could be interesting to listen to if you understood how it was relevant to what you are doing, but very few people make what they share at meetings meaningful for others to be able to listen to.
All participants struggle to listen and keep their eyes open. You dutifully feign interest to appear professional and engaged, but you come to these meetings wondering why you really need to know this stuff. And then you try to come up with your own information that sounds in alignment with what’s being shared.
Or what about a private conversation with a colleague who just loves telling you all the office gossip? They’ll tell you that Human Resources knows that one of the VPs has a kid on his benefits plan that he didn’t have with his wife and anything else you want to know about that. They’ll tell you about people and things that you have no knowledge of or interest in. Or then there’s the colleague who responds to your “how are you?” inquiry with excruciating and monotonous detail about a report they’re working on.
And it’s not because sharing something in an interesting way isn’t professional nor appropriate, it’s because no one really wants to be there doing what they’re doing. At work. This lack of aliveness is painfully evident in people’s eyes and voices.
Kind of makes all those HR initiatives to “engage” people pretty pointless then.
Your colleagues (or you) are disassociated from being in existence because they are (or you are) not connected to the being that is doing.
Likely what’s being shared is actually quite significant, but it’s not compelling to listen to.
There’s no story.
There’s no connection drawn for the listeners.
There’s no consideration for making the information meaningful to those present.
The interaction of which I speak is very informative – as in “prized information” or even an overload of information to be sure, but it demonstrates a very low level of openness and so it feels very difficult to connect with or engage in.
It’s almost as though at work, people are trying to pretend they’re not human. Only they are.
So be on the lookout for how often sharing information is mistaken for openness from yourself or others. Here are seven questions to consider when speaking so that you can show up mindfully and inspire others to do likewise (maybe even pass around these questions before your next meeting):
:: Can I connect what I’m doing to who is listening and what they are doing? Collectively or individually?
:: Do I really need the whole team to listen or will it suffice to have a private conversation to share relevant information with the one or two individuals that need to hear from me?
:: Is there a story that I could incorporate into what I’m sharing that would help make the information more meaningful or concrete or applicable to who is listening?
:: What can I leave out of what I’m “planning” to say because it’s actually not relevant nor interesting to everyone?
:: Am I paying attention to who I’m talking to (is there eye contact with me, a look of interest, when I ask a relevant question is there a response)?
And if not, could I give myself permission to stop what I’m doing (as I’m doing it) or say less or ask questions about what information people would like to know of me – related to this moment or not?
:: If I’m not sure about what kind of information is actually useful to my colleagues or boss, have I taken the time to inquire beforehand to help me prepare what I will share and how I will share it?
:: Could I check in at a meeting (or at the end of a meeting) to determine and/or clarify and/or revisit the expectations around what to share and how to discern its relevance for each person? Maybe do a round table where everyone can help each other with the criteria for sharing in meetings. Wouldn’t that be novel?
It really could be that no one has ever talked about how to share on the team and everyone is just doing what everyone else is doing. This happens more often than you know.
This is all part of making the work you do more meaningful and interesting for you so that it can then benefit everyone around you.
And maybe even start a communication revolution at an office near you.
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