Do you avoid talking to certain people at work? Is it a battle with each email or phone conversation?
Communications can take on a variety of annoying forms like: manipulations of what was originally asked, a non-answer or completely different answer, a question sent back to stall, or an off topic diatribe to delay the real conversation. Even more fun are the responses that are shrouded in thankful overtures but the underlying message is twisted and snarky. I can tell you from experience that it is easy to “rise to the occasion” and get caught up in the drama.
Just last night this very phenomena happened at home. Teenagers are tireless in getting the last word. Truly, they cannot gauge when to stop talking and are well-practiced pros at manipulating the conversation. The eye rolling and tone start to take their toll and it is easy to engage and lose composure, just like it is at work.
Recently I have had to endure required email communications with an out of state vendor. Each time I open the email I am instantly exhausted. What could take a sentence or two, or even a simple “yes or no” turns into paragraphs of text. The communicator spends more time on who did what wrong or on their own personal justifications than on the matter at hand. What a colossal waste of time with little to no possibility of any personal benefit. Whether it is at work, or at home, it is important to understand the effectiveness of a handy tool – stop engaging.
If I step back and put on my HR hat for a moment, I can recognize ways to offset the drama, maintain my composure and have less stress. The workplace doesn’t typically offer a lot of formalized training on this topic, but intuitive people can learn through experience. And, this experience can be channeled to those annoying teenagers at home, so they don’t do it when they do enter the work place.
Here are a few tips:
- Keep emails and communications brief. Sometimes less is actually more. Steve Jobs was apparently short and to the point on his email communications and well regarded for it.
- Stop. Or at least wait. Continually engaging feeds the monster and gives more fodder for the person to work with. Waiting a day, or even an hour, can completely readjust perspective.
- Know your objective. Is the conversation purpose to get a project complete at work? Is the conversation to have the child get homework done? Focus on that, the rest is noise.
- Manage the emotions. At least on the outside. There are tons of resources and blogs available on this topic.
- Get training. This is a practiced skill set. Work toward this goal. I fail at it regularly but continue to strive to better behavior and over time, I have learned to engage less often.
As an HR person, my job is all about driving internal behavior and offering tools to make the employment experience enjoyable. Just like I tell my teenagers at home; “you can’t control what a person does but you can control your response.” If an experience at work opens your eyes to unnecessary verbal or written volleys, share your thoughts at home. I think they will hear you.