Do you remember a time when someone close to you (a loved one, a friend, or a colleague) says something that stirs your heart, not in the usual delightful way, but in a bit of painful way? It is painful because it stings your heart knowing that for doing something unintentional or for not doing something due to the circumstances of the moment, you hurt that someone. And in the highest of your intellect and in the depths of your heart, you ask, “What went wrong? What did I do wrong? Have I always been that way?”
Then your logical mind kicks in and reason out, “I’m not always that way. I am giving my best. It’s just that I’m disturbed by some factors – like exhaustion, sleepiness, worry.” And your thoughts cry out, “It’s not fair for you to say that. Can’t you see the other things I am doing?”
But once you verbally spurt out those words, you activate World War III. You will appear that you are not listening. You will sound like you are not loving. You will be going against the very intention of why that loved one, friend, or colleague said those words in the first place. This happens in work settings, in any organization, and in any situation where you deal with different people with different backgrounds, cultures, perspectives, personalities, leadership styles, and communication styles.
Hence, I have to remind myself and you, my dear friend, that that loved one (or workmate, or business partner, or fellow officer, or team member, or friend) of yours is not picking a fight with you, he or she is simply giving feedback to you.
If you have this mindset, you will be most often right. And if you were wrong, you will still be on a higher ground. With it, you will give a more appropriate response. Instead of going into defensive mode, you will be more open and responsive to the feedback.
One of many factors why we need to have this mindset is because we vary in communication styles. Your communication style may not necessarily be the other person’s communication style. Your preferred communication style may not necessarily be what is being used by other people when they communicate with you.
The Toastmasters Pathways Program shares four communication styles: supportive, analytical, initiating, and direct. The supportive style is calm, steady, approachable, sincere, and gentle. The analytical style is precise, exact, analytical, and logical. The initiating style is sociable, enthusiastic, energetic, spontaneous, and fun-loving. The direct style is decisive, competitive, independent, and confident. (Note: There’s more about these communication styles that I encourage you to learn more about.)
According to the test I took, my primary communication style is supportive. I am more careful and relaxed, which sometimes may be misinterpreted as ‘not decisive or not responsive’. My secondary communication styles are analytical and initiating. My analytical style may have been furthered by my training as an accountant and auditor (being careful with details, systems, and structures) and my initiating style may have been developed by my work as a trainer and speaker (that demands being sociable, enthusiastic, and energetic). The last on my list is direct. This does not mean I do not use direct style. I do. It’s just that when I use it, I often would start with a ‘cushion statement’ like ‘Let me be direct with you.’ or ‘Can I be direct with you.’ or ‘Let me be frank and straight with you.’
It is important to note that just like with our leadership styles, we need to adjust our communication style accordingly depending on the situation. The ideal scenario is that we are able to switch accordingly smoothly and suavely. But this does not happen all the time. People are people who make mistakes. People are people who may not be at their best all the time.
There are many contributing factors why we are not able to respond properly to challenging statements hurled at us. Maybe we are thinking of our projects. Maybe we are physically tired and exhausted. Maybe we are preoccupied by something else. When this happens, let us not be quick to judge the other person and think that they do not want what we want, that they are not cooperating, that they are not one with us. Most often, they are on our side even if it does not seem to appear to be that way at that particular situation.
When a loved one, friend, or colleague tells you something that stirs your heart, not in the usual delightful way, but in a way that stings your heart, strive not to give in to the impulse saying, “Fight back!” Hold it and remind yourself, “Wait. This is not a fight; this is a feedback.”
And reflect, “How can I do better? How can I be a better loved one, a better friend, a better colleague?”
I know this is tough. But it pays great dividends to hold your fire and respond wisely to the feedback. So, even when it gets tougher and people tell you, “You are not giving your best.” Remind yourself, “Wait. This is not a fight; this is a feedback. How should I respond?”
(Chris Dao-anis, CPA, DTM is a leadership trainer, speaker, author and growth coach. You may invite him to give a talk or training by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at www.chrisdaoanis.com and like his Facebook page at www.fb.com/chrisdaoanis. You can get a FREE copy of his book ‘SPEAK: How to Craft and Deliver a Speech or Presentation with Competence & Confidence’ by attending his ‘SPEAK 2.0 Public Speaking Workshop for Employees and Entrepreneurs’ on August 10 in Baguio City. Register now at http://bit.ly/SpeakBaguio or text your name and email address to 0917-858-9154.)