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January 2017
Communication at Work

First to JudgePatti Lind

January has been a very complicated month for those of us living in Portland, OR. Besides the waves of cold, cough and flu tossing us about, we've been challenged with weather waves of ice and snow. We are getting cranky, and when we get cranky it is very easy to judge. I think a judgmental thread was passed onto me through my ancestors because it seems to run in the family. I have battled it my whole life and it is clear to me that practicing curiosity and goodwill is the better way forward. When I do that, I feel better about myself and do far better work. So in the hope of making January just a little bit easier, here are ways to reduce crankiness and judgment in your communication …

Giving people the benefit of the doubt.

This statement asks us to set aside our first reaction to judge and replace it with curiosity and goodwill. As it turns out, this is much easier said than done because we first have to recognize that tendency in our self. The next time you are sitting in a meeting, mark a dot on a piece of paper each time your first response to a statement or behavior is to judge. When you make a dot, practice giving them the benefit of the doubt. Ask them a question instead of telling them why they are wrong.
  • Could you tell me more about your idea?
  • What are you hoping to achieve if you do that?
  • Could you help me understand why you feel so strongly about this?
Or, you could just change your thinking towards tolerance.
  • What might be their good intentions?
  • This person takes their job seriously. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • I need to make room for people who think and act differently than me?

Expand your knowledge by listening

It is easy for all of us to hear a little information and quickly find fault. When you find yourself immediately getting worked up about a decision or a process, instead of venting your concerns to others, commit to learning more from a reliable source.
  • Approach them with the intention to learn, not to put them on the spot.
  • Could you help me understand how you reached your decision?
  • What other options did you consider? Why was this decision chosen?
  • I wasn't included on the meeting invite. Would you mind explaining to me why that was?

Cut them some slack.

It is easy to zero in on small mistakes and tune out the good. Making it worse, is the tendency to talk about those small mistakes to others. I notice this all the time; the few snippets that are shared about meetings are the awkward jokes, the tense moments and the off-base ideas. And yet, those meetings were probably filled with people being very thoughtful and working hard to solve problems. This is where our tendency to judge and spread the news of people's imperfections can cause a great deal of harm. I think we all would like people to look beyond our weaknesses and see the good. Fortunately, the solution to this tendency is simple: Don't tell stories about the weak moments.

Take people off your list.

Sometimes people irritate us so much that we expect them to irritate us before they even open their mouths. With that attitude we become blind to the good they do and reinforce the bad. When I realize that I'm doing that to someone, it helps me to write their name down and jot down ideas that will give them a fairer chance. I might choose to get to know them better. Or, actively look for all the ways they are successful. I might talk to others who admire them. Sometimes I silently wish them peace whenever I start feeling judgmental.

Of course, these ideas aren't just for January and the rest of winter. They are good practices for the rest of our lives. When I was 20 years old, my best friend told me "You are judgmental." I didn't like hearing that and now I'm in my 42nd year of trying to overcome it. These ideas have worked for me and I hope you might find some of them worth trying.
Share this newsletter with your team and ask the questions:
  "How quick are we at judging one another?"
  "Do we shut down each other's ideas?"
  "Do we talk about each other's mistakes?"

Ask the group to set a goal for the month on how everyone can increase curiosity and goodwill within your team.

I highly recommend the magazine, Mindful. The January issue has articles on: The Power of Kindness. Compassion Toolkit: 11 Ways to Strengthen Your Empathy Muscle and How to be a better listener.

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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