“Working with you I’ve discovered a softer, gentler way to lead, now, suddenly, I have to work with this *$%hole and I have to become all hard and tough again… and now I realise how much I don’t like it…”
A friend recently said this. We all recognise it, we achieve an equilibrium in a team, a family, then something happens and we lose it.
The answer lies in an understanding of the three domains of communication, and especially, in how to work in the third of them:
Knowing how to operate in the third domain - influencing the conversations that people have with each other when you are not there - is where you'll find the greatest power in communication.
B. What you say matters
B. How you say it matters
“During human conversations, spiritual beings fly about the room on the wings of the words. This is why it is so important that we pay attention to certain subtleties of speech, and do not simply let uncontrolled feelings get the better of us when we speak.”
You don’t have to buy-into the role of spiritual beings to get his point: however you peel the orange, the words you use matter less than than who you are being when you say them!
C. Where you say it
Even more important than who you are being is the context in which those words are being said. For example: "Look Out’!" means something very different here:
Same words… very different context... VERY different reactions!
In perhaps a more relevant example: if your boss makes a suggestion about your work performance you will consider their comments very differently than if a friends or colleague makes the same statement. This is not because your boss is necessarily more experienced, or even that you respect them more than you do your friend, it's because they are your boss and have a degree of power over you your friend does not.
Context is the most important part of domain of communication called “You to Others”.
Though not always as blatant as the examples I’ve given here, it is always worth being conscious of the context in which your words, or the words of others, are crafted.
We do a lot to manipulate the context into which we speak:
- we add the letters ‘phd’ to our name so people (legitimately) respect our opinions more;
- we wear professional clothes to interviews and then change to go to the pub;
- we make conscious choices about where we have certain conversations (the café or the board-room), at the most basic level;
- we chose 'set-the-scene' to start a conversations to influence how people listen to us: starting a statement with “I don’t know but…” or “In my 20 years’ experience I’ve learnt that ….” creates a very different levels of buy-in with the listener.
Domain 2: Others to You
In my coaching, this is the domain in which we most often work:
How can you consciously craft who people think they are talking to? This the realm of the role model, leading by example.
If you know how to start being responsible for how you show up for other people, who they are around you starts to change (here’s a video I did about this a few months back). That can be very exciting!
Domain 3: Others to Others
This is the domain we tend to ignore, and the one where we really start to have influence.
Being like a PM
The Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand have this problem in spades. They both purport to lead a country, and a people, but only one of them, Jacinda Allen is operating consciously in the third domain.
Exhibit A. Within one week of each other, both Scott Morrison and Jacinda Allen had interviews with Waleed Aly to talk about the killing of Muslims in Christchurch.
Lasting influence, at home or at work, lies in operating consciously in the this, the domain of communication.
It’s like parenting: what kinds of behaviour are acceptable in your family? Where do you draw the line? How do you enforce it?
There are three criteria that must be met to be effective in this domain:
- Set the boundaries very clearly
- Set it in front of others, not privately
- Set the boundary on the behaviour, not the issue that prompted the behaviour.
- Do it straight away - while it is happening. The next hour or day is too late and you'll have to wait for another opportunity
In that example, it's important not to say “it’s not a laughing matter, the suggestion she made is valid”. This does not address the behaviour itself (especially if the suggestion was a silly one). A better approach is to say something like:
“we don’t laugh at people’s suggestions in this company/team/organisation”. Done in front of people, this creates a boundary around behaviour that is acceptable or not acceptable that other people can then police when you are not there.
This is one strategy for operating in the domain of ‘Others to Others’ in your workplace.
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