I am the last to say that my friendships and relationships are perfect cherry topped sundaes, but I have learned a lot through the years to help me navigate them in more healthy ways and what I had to learn was more about me than the person I’m in the relationship with. To some this seems counterintuitive, but in the long run it has helped me to communicate and let others communicate more effectively with me.
Why? I can’t control another person’s anger, tone, or communication style, but I can control mine and that’s key in maintaining an open dialogue with others.
Listen and Think before you speak
We’ve all heard this old axiom, but many of us subconsciously believe this doesn’t actually apply to us. I have at times been one of those people, wanting my opinion to be heard before the person I’m talking to and likely about to fight with can get another word in. One of the number one ways to think first is to listen to what someone is trying to say to you before inserting your input into the situation.
It’s tough to listen to someone tell us what is wrong with a project that we’ve turned in, a presentation we’ve done, or worse, something that might actually fall into the “personality problem” category.
I’m an optimist, so I generally believe that when a coworker, friend, or loved one comes to me with a critique then there are probably some words of wisdom that I should glean from it even if all I want to do is yell slurs at them or slink back to my cave and curl in a ball.
With this said, I want your next unforeseen run-in with Colonel Critique to be as productive as possible. How?
Can I repeat what this person just said back to me? If not, then you probably weren’t listening and became defensive as the first few words came out of their mouth. The key to listening before responding is taking a second to repeat what you just heard and rephrase it for yourself. Then ask yourself, is the accusation true or untrue without making excuses or blaming others if it is.
This means if your boss comes up to you and says, “Sam, you screwed this up, the edits aren’t correct. It looks like we’re going to have to delay production for another day because of you.”
What you may have heard was, “Sam, you’re an idiot, I’m going to fire you.”
What you should be hearing is, “Sam, the edits weren’t quite right and you need to fix them, just make sure to review them more thoroughly the next time.”
Your response should sound more like this, “I’m sorry I have delayed production, I understand the errors and will make sure to be more thorough next time around.”
Just make sure that next time around you actually are more thorough so that this same conversation does not happen again and escalate.
Still continue to be civil. You still need to respond to why something that was your responsibility was not well handled. Keep a calm and steady tone in order to keep the dialogue open and both of you as composed as possible. If it was not your responsibility at all let your boss know. ** As a reminder, if you delegated the task it was still your responsibility to follow-up.
Changing the way you hear people and speak doesn’t happen in a day; it takes practice and can be a life long process. It can ultimately help you become a better listener and make you a more trust worthy person. If people believe they can come to you and express their views without you going off the deep end then it will make all your relationships a little better.
Does this all mean that you should just let people yell at you at the office? Of course not! You will know when something is necessary feedback and when it’s not. If someone is criticizing you and you just can’t figure out why, pull them aside and ask them what or how these things relate to your job and if it’s something that needs to be escalated to higher authority. Generally you can alleviate some of the tension just by listening and talking it through.
Have any comments or questions about critique at the office? Let me know!