I was conducting research on causes of poor communication and came across a great TED-Ed Blog by Julian Treasure on bad communication habits that we all seem to have. It seems that there are four “common emotional drivers that suck the power out of communication.” He appropriately calls these the four leeches.
I have always said that communication is key to everything. I speak on the factors that make for good communication such as telling the what, the why, providing expectation as a result of what was said and gaining acceptance or understanding. I also speak on the need for ensuring to ask for feedback and ensuring to provide feedback.
As I write the above, I realize that I am attaching the first leech in our communication.
The first leech is the desire to look good. We like to look good. I don’t mean physically appealing, as I most definitely am. I mean in how we are viewed in conversation. This desire manifests itself in the “I know” statement. We like to demonstrate that we know stuff so we prepare to broadcast the knowledge whenever we speak. However, if we know everything, how can we learn anything?
We all have experienced talking with someone who cannot be impressed because they know and have done everything. It makes everything you are excited about secondhand, unimportant and trivial. It makes you want to get away physically or by shutting down.
The second leech is being right. We tend to want to be the one who is right in conversations. We feel that being right will earn respect and admiration. It will place us in a higher status than others.
Often this desire causes us to interrupt the conversation to interject the “correcting” statement. Interrupting is, of course, detrimental to the communication because it keeps us from hearing the full details and may offend the speaker. So … do you want to be right or do you want to have this relationship? Often they are mutually exclusive.
Leech number three is people pleasing. This is when someone is way too agreeable. They desire to avoid conflict or to be seen as likeable. They will agree even when they internally do not. They will readily acquiesce to a request even when it violates a personal value. Let’s not rock the boat.
The final leech is fixing. Let’s make it all right. Let’s not allow others to have undesirable feelings or be upset about something. Fixers strive to propose a solution to whatever is bothering you even if there really is no resolution possible. In the process they prevent venting by the other person and cause even more stress since the person is not allowed to present their feelings. Also, sometimes the individual does not want to be probed for a solution.
Men are great fixers by the way. When my wife Ruth seems upset, my first instinct is to solve and redirect. My approach is the classic “What is wrong and how can I fix it?” If she attempts to actually tell me, I bring out the above leeches and carefully and expertly place them for greatest effect.
I make sure that I look good by knowing everything therefore I have the solution. I, of course, cannot possibly be wrong in anything I say or do. I am very pleasant in my own special patronizing way. And for the final leech, I let her know in a very loving way that her problem is now fixed never to resurface.
My final act is to redirect her efforts into taking care of my needs such as the need for lunch and a glass of wine.
Zen Proverb: “Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day.”
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