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September 2016
Communication at Work
While I am on vacation, I am re-posting a newsletter from 2014 for anyone who is feeling overly discouraged right now with communication issues. I hope it encourages you to shift from "feeling miserable" to "feeling empowered."

Playing the VictimPatti Lind

Effective communication isn't about knowing what to do, it is doing what you know. Being able to do what you know varies from interaction to interaction. Sometimes we walk away from a difficult interaction and feel very proud about how we handled it. Other times, we walk away angry, resentful and absolutely sure that we weren't the cause of it. But, that feeling is an illusion. Like it or not, we are active players in all conversations, including those that go poorly.
We become vulnerable when we don't take responsibility for our own actions and focus instead on the wrong actions of others. First and foremost, we are taking away our own sense of power. Once we lose our sense of power, we are left reacting to situations. For many people, that means avoiding, crying, defending or attacking. These reactions only exacerbate the problem and delay us from learning important life lessons.
Often the first voice that gives us the chance to see our responsibility is the person who offers us feedback. At that moment … they are pointing towards opportunity and encouraging us to learn what is possible. The people who struggle the most are the ones who view feedback as an attack, rather than an opportunity. Rather than genuinely seeing the possibilities, they cloak themselves in a victim cape. Perhaps you recognize some of yourself in these phrases when you received advice to strengthen your communication skills?
  • They are wrong.
  • People are out to get me.
  • It is too hard
  • I will just quit
  • Someone needs to protect me and make the feedback go away.
  • Fine. I will become a lesser version of myself so they won't have anything to criticize me about.
  • I can't trust anyone, including the people who are offering their support

It is important to know that even the best communicators have bad communication moments and are on the receiving end of feedback. While they might lick their wounds for a while, eventually they take an inward look, accept responsibility for their own behaviors and see what else there is to learn about this particularly challenging situation.
This month is an excellent opportunity to take a close look at yourself and recognize when you are putting on your victim cape. Become familiar with your favorite cop outs, and rephrase them for strength. Change "How dare they!" to "What is my contribution?" Change "I quit." to "What is there for me to learn in this?" Long ago, I changed my own self-talk and it made a world of difference from that point on in my life. I stopped saying "I can't stand this" and started saying "I can handle it". What phrase is going to help strengthen you this year?
Sometimes it is fun to learn something you never knew about each other … and perhaps learn that we are more the same then we are different. At the start of your next meeting, divide into triad and answer the question "For back to school month, what school year stands out most in your life and why?" Afterwards, ask "Did you learn anything that you had in common from your stories?"

Resources
My book, Communication At Work, is available in paperback, Kindle, Nook, and eBook formats, and may be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell Bookstore and Inkwater Press.
Communication at Work

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