I was recently at a health and safety conference in Kitchener, Ontario. The keynote speaker, Brian Thwaits, a renowned brain expert, said something that immediately stuck with me. He was discussing how sometimes we exert our best efforts to give a presentation or train a group of people and they stare back at us with blank expressions because they don’t get it and our first thought is, “What’s wrong with them?”
That got me thinking: Why do we always assume the other person is at fault when they don’t understand us? Perhaps we didn’t provide enough information, or detail, or clarity, or a specific time frame for the person to respond to our request the way we thought they should. If we take a step back and look at ourselves first, our workplace interactions could be not only more efficient, but more pleasurable.
Maybe the other person isn’t incompetent, but is afraid to ask for clarity because we project an attitude of indifference or annoyance when they ask us questions. Our approach can help or hinder the other person’s understanding of what we say. And it can help or hinder our working relationships.
It’s difficult to be objective when we look at ourselves. After all, what could be wrong with us? We’re all thoughtful, intelligent, caring, articulate, and good-humored people. But, if we can see that our intentions aren’t always what the other person perceives, we can correct how we’re communicating. When we do this, it affects how others feel and how they interact with us, and maybe, just maybe, provides a bit more peace in the workplace. It doesn’t take that much more effort to treat everyone with the same respect that we treat ourselves with.
Mr. Thwaits went on to talk about how different people learn in different ways, discussed our multiple intelligences, and the fact that the more we know about each of those, the more effective we can be. It’s a fascinating topic worth checking out. Who knew it could even help promote respectful workplace interactions?