Does your Communication style matter?

Does your Communication style matter?

My grateful thanks to Glenda Chew, a colleague, for suggesting this Daily Paradox

Watch someone who works with big, dangerous animals. They will be gentle, talk quietly, move at a measured pace, never express anger, and treat the animal with respect. If it is small enough and they are frightened enough by it they may try to kill it. You may think communicating with humans is different from dealing with dangerous animals but believe me, it isn’t. Actually you are handling the most dangerous of all the animals – humankind.

You don’t have to treat animals and humans decently just to avoid being killed. You also have to do it if you want them to cooperate with you. It won’t always work though. Take the case of a youngish person I met recently and have tried to help. He is in difficulties and I thought he was bright and capable of a much better job than he has at present. He sent me a copy of his CV to critique. It was, without exception, the worst CV I have ever seen.

I responded very gently, asking him relevant questions about what he was expecting a reader to think about him and how he imagined the CV would be perceived by a potential employer. They were obvious questions that he had clearly never considered. His reply was as ungracious as I have seen in a long time. “You made very good points about the finer details of my CV,” he said. No ‘thank you’, just a patronising reply about ‘finer details’. He is getting this advice and attention free. Or, rather, I should probably say, ‘was’.

Why would I consider dropping him? Because the common courtesies for receiving help and the simplest streak of emotional intelligence are missing and that will inhibit employers from engaging him. I suspect it may be why he has not made a greater success of his present job. Until he learns that of all the virtues we need in this world, respect for fellow human beings is the key asset he is going to be in deep trouble. For all that, I probably won’t drop him. Dealing with the impossible has been a challenge I’ve usually accepted.

We are surrounded by vulgarities like the advertisement which says “add to cart, add to life”. I can’t believe even the least intelligent fellow human being responds to that crass suggestion. My response to it is: “Add to courtesy, add to success”. 

A lesson I learnt during my advertising days was that criticising people seldom works. I say ‘seldom’ because, ironically, for an exceptionally adjusted person negative feedback can be very positive. Most humans don’t fall into that ‘exceptionally’ category. We become defensive when our faults and mistakes are pointed out. It’s understandable. We have been brought up to believe that perfection is the goal. It absolutely isn’t. Achievement is the goal. 

Understanding the reluctance of people to respond to helpful but critical suggestions, I have learnt that the opposite is true. If someone is failing at something, congratulate them on doing it better. 99% of people respond by trying harder and improving on their ‘improvement’.

You should be who you are. Nobody with an ounce of sense wants everyone to be the same. Our differing personalities are our raison d’etre, the only possible basis for our being better than AI. But a society needs socially acceptable behaviour. Today we are getting less and less of that. Those who practice it are the winners.

Oh, and the bit about animals small enough and dangerous enough precipitating a murder? Yes, that applies in human to human communications, too. The difference is, with humans the mode of killing is usually slower, more painful and unbelievably brutal.

Yes, your communication style does matter.

It matters a whole lot.

Good morning.

John Bittleston

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1 September 2023