From a young age I have always been anthropologically inquisitive, or as my wife refers to it; awfully nosey. Observing human behaviour now plays a large part in what I do for a living so I can justify this behaviour as skill development. For anyone who is wont to such curiosity, airports and coffee shops are fertile soil for people watching. It was the latter that provided me with an absolute gem in human relations and communication recently, so I said I would share as there was a lesson here we can all learn from. It is applicable in our personal lives as it is professionally.
During one of the many many cups of coffee I had over the past few months I was sitting in a local cafe one morning being curious. All was as normal until suddenly a member of the Munster rugby team came in to order some take away coffees. The owner sprung to life and was full of smiles and greetings for the esteemed guest. There was a gift of new branded products and a flow of cheery conversation throughout his wait. On he went as I smiled to see how the next customer would be greeted. Blank! Not a smile, welcome, or hello. Within this are many lessons, assumptions and questions to be posed. Firstly, how would that business, or yours, look if you treated everyone with the same level of energy and enthusiasm as this guy was afforded?
More importantly however is the next point I am coming to around how we treat people differently in our professional dealings. A lot of the time we do not this intentionally, you know cos we are not assholes, but we still do it. With some people and some industries the disdain shown to people below them in the organisation can be very open, frank and cutting. The hierarchy is there and to many it justifies their poor behaviour and treatment of people and their opinions. There will be open arguments, eye rolling, sighs and poor punctuality, or non attendance at meetings. One doesn’t require a Masters in Behavioural Psychology to understand what is going on here. This person does not value you, or what you have to say. There are mitigating factors, but if it is a pattern you can be fairly sure.
We try our best to remain objective, but in human interaction we grade people as we would a deck of cards. A 2 is lowest and an Ace is highest. The 2’s will know very easily what you think of them, or what they have to say at that particular time (a key distinction) As we are all so impartial and fair in our dealings we would never do this right? Wrong, we do this all of the time and only by knowing where and when can we manage it better. This often happens at a subconscious level and you are not even aware of the micro expressions we make which give away the game. It can be an eye roll done in nano seconds, a shift of posture, a mini frown, or change in skin tone. How we listen is as significant an insight as to how we reply. Are you fully focused on what the person is saying, or just waiting to jump in with a counter argument. In many cases it is worse again as people have switched off completely and are not listening at all. I see this arise a lot in meetings where people’s pre-determined views of the agenda, or people in the room, is written all over their face. You might think people don’t notice….They Do!
On the flip side anyone who you view as an Ace will feel like such. They feel listened to, understood, treated fairly and respected. Break any of these and you will have huge issues with engagement. Break them and all and you might as well pack your belongings in a cardboard box now as the end is near. The ultimate goal here is to treat everyone like an Ace, whether they are a graduate, janitor or CEO.
You may not be consciously grading people, but ask yourself the following questions honestly and go from there;
Do I treat all people I encounter in the same manner?
Are certain people getting my full and undivided attention whilst with others I am just nodding and smiling but completely distracted?
Even if I have preferred people in my team, am I treating everyone fairly and to the same standards?
Does my tone and body language change noticeably when communicating with certain people (both positively or negatively)
Where and when does my communication style change and why?
I pride myself in trying to treat everyone I meet with the same level of attention and respect. I am not egotistical enough to think I don’t have any biases, so it is a continuous process to identify and remedy these. Getting to a place where you treat everyone as an Ace is the desired goal in your communications. Knowing where, when and why you don’t gives you a choice as to whether you need to amend, or even want to.
Go well in 2019 and ciao for now