“I am not complaining, It’s constructive criticism!”
Have you ever heard that statement and then had someone pick you apart like a vulture picking the last bits of meat off a corpse? Sorry for the disgusting visual but that is what it feels like sometimes. You cannot defend or fight back can you? This wonderful person is taking time out of their insanely busy day to try and help lil’ ‘ol you. “Help” like this is actually very stupid and destructive and if you put up with it, it can destroy your life. If you are a person who does this, it will also destroy any chance for happiness and make those around you miserable. How can you tell the difference between dumb, destructive complaining and wise complaining? Watch for these words and phrases:
1. “I’m telling you this for your own good.”
I find it amazing that someone will assert so strongly that their critiques of you are for your own good when you and they both know they are tearing you down. Notice that when someone complains to you like this, they give you no solution to the problem they have just introduced. It is just nasty criticism.
2. “Your problem is….”
Your problem is that person who continually tells you what your problem is. As if they know! This statement is extremely destructive because it both invalidates the person on the receiving end and tells them what they should be thinking and doing. It is a lousy and destructive control method and never fails to anger the recipient. Your problem is only and ever what YOU decide your problem is. That is, if you decide that you even have a problem. End of story.Advertising
3. “Only your close friend would tell you…” (followed by something negative and catty).
Warning! Danger! If you start considering the person who tears you to pieces a “close friend” you may as well start digging your grave with a teaspoon. I hate to dump this on you, but there are people in life who do not wish you well. Whether it is due to jealousy or control issues, these people can approach you in what appears to be a helpful fashion and try to get close to you only to manipulate you for their own gains. If someone continually tells you negative things that “only your close friends will tell you” take a closer look at this person and decide whether they really mean you well.
4. “I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but everybody thinks that your husband (or wife or child or friend) is (something negative) “
First off, the person telling you this is lying. They LOVE to be the bearer of bad news. Secondly why are they talking to you about it and not to your husband, wife, child, friend or whoever? In all likelihood, this information that “everybody thinks” is a lie they made up. Someone who is verbally attacking your family and friends is attacking you! They are trying to sow doubts in your head and if you let them, they can destroy your relationships.
5. “I know you just lost your dog but that’s nothing compared to what happened to me!”
Don’t you just love these statements? No matter how bad you are feeling, this person has ALWAYS had a worse experience than you and is ALWAYS ready to trot it out whenever you just need a friendly ear or a shoulder to cry on. At times,these folks seem to be out looking for nasty experiences or opportunities to be treated badly just for the purpose of one-upping you in the game of “Who has been more injured?” Life with this person is crammed with never-ending stories about how their poorly clipped toenail turned into gangrene, or how the cold they had last week was actually The Plague, until you are reduced to rigor mortis by boredom.
6. “So and so dresses so poorly. Seriously does she get her clothes at the Goodwill?”
There are so many things wrong with this statement that I hardly know where to start. First, why is he/she talking to you? Secondly, so the other person has different tastes. So what? Thirdly, has this negative person tried to get in communication and actually help this other person by just being a friend to her? What is the purpose of the communication? If it is anything other than help, it is stupid! If someone complains to you in this manner, advise them that it is not OK and you will not listen. They may bad mouth you, but they would anyway given the chance.Advertising
7. “I’d be so embarrassed if that were me. “
My friend Sally Nutter, on her radio show, once said that what a person who says this really means is, “I have been hurt and embarrassed so many times that I cannot confront the fact that you might be, too”. How can someone be embarrassed for you? It makes no sense! His hurt and embarrassment are not yours. Go be who you want to be and do what you want to do.
8. “I hate this job! It sucks!” (usually followed by an endless list of grievances).
Simple question: Why is this person there? And why is she talking to you about it? She should be doing something about it. Now, obviously ,we all have things that happen in our workaday lives that upset us and, momentarily, we can feel that the entire job is a sucky ball of suck, but a person who always feels that way and lets everyone know it in no uncertain terms is bringing the rest of the staff down. Steer clear.
9. “Everybody knows that so and so is a (racist, sexist, wife beater, baby eater, anything bad).”
Harmful lies spread about people to others is not a light matter. These lies ruin relationships because they are difficult to detect and because the person telling them works very hard to remain undetected. They can fester for a long time, with resultant upset and turmoil. When someone tells you something negative about another person, check it out for yourself. If someone with whom you have been in good communication suddenly becomes cold and distant, suspect harmful lies in the background and start sniffing them out. Find out who is saying it. One person spreading falsehoods left undetected and unrestrained can ruin an entire office of workers or a family by setting them at each others’ throats and sitting on the sidelines watching the fun. It is evil, and my advice is to expose them before they take you all down.
10. “I hear that we are all going to be laid off (or some other gloomy statement) and there is nothing we can do about it.”
I once had a client who, unfortunately, was housed in the same office with me and my staff. Every day he was in with my staff telling them how bad things were and that the layoff notices would be here soon. Each time I heard it, I asked the people who made those decisions whether they were true. They were ALWAYS false. When someone carries bad news like a mosquito carries malaria, followed by the statement “…. and there’s nothing we can do about it,” get them out of your space. You can ALWAYS do something about anything! Anyone who consistently brings that message is a loser. He or she is trying to get agreement on the uselessness of action. This comes from a certainty of his own uselessness. If he cannot change his tune, move him out.Advertising
11. “I don’t care how bad it was, you deserved it!”
Ouch! I don’t even have to go into why that one does nothing to help anyone. While there are a few Hitlers and Goerings on the planet today, the vast majority of people do not deserve to be hurt. People are trying their best to survive and many of them are trying to help others survive. There are far more good people than bad ones, and we all deserve a little compassion, even when we have strayed.
12. “What you did to me was so bad that it can never be remedied.”
There are some things that are very difficult to forgive. But, there are some not-so-bright people who make a career out of nursing grievances so that they can manipulate others through guilt. This is stupid and destructive. When someone holds a grudge and yet keeps coming around you, you have to wonder why . It is likely that they are trying to control you by making you guilty of some horrible crime which generally turns out to be not a crime at all but some little thing that person has amplified into a mortal sin. If you were to look at the results of the actions of a person like this, you would generally find his actions are far more harmful and destructive than whatever this person is holding over you.
13. “I know I am calling at 2:00 A.M. but if you were a real friend you wouldn’t mind.”
Really? The only urgent things that merit a call at 2:00 A.M. are loss or illness of a loved one, suicidal thoughts, personal illness or “Hey! You just won the lotto!!” Anything else can wait. There are many, many people who suffer the tortures of the damned all night long, alone, because they don’t want to wake you. Others seem to think that whenever they are upset for whatever reason, you are supposed to share their misery no matter how inconvenient it is for you. Arguments with husbands or boyfriends, rude waiters, and slights by the boss are not 2:00 A.M. calls in my book.
14. “Why should you care that he was mistreated? It didn’t happen to you!”
People who are intelligent and sane naturally care about whether other people are treated fairly and are doing well. When someone doesn’t care, it signifies not only a lack of intelligence with regard to understanding human behavior, but also a lack of responsibility for his fellow man. Even very young children feel empathy and concern for others’ happiness and well being.Advertising
15. “I hate myself!” (Or any negative remark that a person makes about herself).
Someone who speaks negatively about herself is saying that she has been pounded down and made less of so much that she now believes that this is truth. The person is not dumb but the complaints she is making ARE. Most people do not like to hear negative things about good people even if the negative things are being said by the person herself.
Ask yourself, have you ever made the above complaints? If you don’t want to be a dumb complainer any more, stop making these complaints.
Published on May 18, 2021
How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.
The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.
Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.
Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.
Table of Contents
Listen to Understand, Not to Speak
There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.
Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.
Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.
We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.
Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.
A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.
The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.
Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event. And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.
Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.
Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!
Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words
While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.
Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved. When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.
These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.
Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.
Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?
Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.
Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.
Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons. These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.
Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.
Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All
As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.
This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.
Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption. Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.
Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.
These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.
Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.
Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!
More Tips Improving Listening Skills
- 11 Tips to Help Improve Your Active Listening Skills
- 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home
- How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)
Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com
|||^||NCBI: Listening Effort: How the Cognitive Consequences of Acoustic Challenge Are Reflected in Brain and Behavior|
|||^||NCBI: The Influences of Emotion on Learning and Memory|
|||^||NCBI: Brain Mechanisms Underlying Human Communication|
|||^||NCBI: Body language in the brain: constructing meaning from expressive movement|
|||^||NCBI: The Role of the Human Mirror Neuron System in Supporting Communication in a Digital World|
|||^||Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences: The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress|