If you were faced with the question “Do you wish to be right or to be happy?”, what would you choose? Most of us, in spite of our best interests, continue to self-sabotage our happiness as long as we can puff up our chests at the end of a conversation and end it with the infamous sentence “I told you so”, followed by the classic “I was right.”
In the professional world, vulnerability almost sounds like a dirty word. We are expected to produce perfect bodies of work that pour out of us effortlessly at the same time that the glorification of “busy” is non-negotiable – one must constantly produce, multitask, get stuff done. Productivity is meant to happen at full speed, no excuses, no time to whine or ask for help. We are supposed to be poised and collected even when we underslept and are overworked. We must keep up with the news and the new emerging technologies of everyday 2020 life. In business meetings, true feelings should never be revealed because a great professional has to have mastered their ultimate poker face. When speaking to others, make sure to be assertive and never show any weakness. Remember: in the race to success, your peers are also your enemies. In other words, we are asked to be machine people that, inadvertently will be cruel not only to ourselves but to others a lot of the time.
It is a very aggressive business world out there, and it is frankly exhausting.
This type of “super-human” – or as I like to call it “super-unhuman” – behaviour is not sustainable in the long run. The condition known as burnout – which is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress – has become so common in workplaces that there is a shocking lack of shock when a diagnosis occurs. Humans are beings that require connection, attention and affection to strive. Despite what so much motivational literature has you believe, we need each other to survive, to be creative, to achieve greatness. Productivity and personal accomplishments should not be synonyms to aggression or exhaustion, but how can we expect that empathy and understanding will be on top of people’s lists when relating to others if they are not on top of our priorities when dealing with ourselves?
Professor Brené Brown once said that “Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.”
In business culture, ambition can easily be confused with cutting people’s throats (figuratively speaking, I hope). It seems that it isn’t obvious to people that community, a safe space, and support are things that everyone should have in their workplace. Why aren’t they asking for it, designing it for themselves, demanding it, even? It seems so clear that in being honest about your feelings, you would find support and, therefore, open the conversation for others to do the same. Communication can be a tricky business, however. Especially when work emails, Slack, Whatsapp and other written technology is involved. There is a fine line between sounding professional and sounding rude; your memory of what was said last week – “As mentioned before” – can always come across as passive-aggressive.
Face to face interactions are not free of misreadings, also. Tone of voice, internalised feelings and imagination play a fundamental part in how people interpret what is said to them and, sometimes, two people can be simultaneously having two very different conversations. So, what’s the solution? How can we communicate better so that we are better to each other and, ultimately, better at what we do with the bonus of feeling less stressed? Surely the way we choose to speak have a lot to do with it.
“Nonviolent Communication – or NVC – is an approach developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg in the 1960s. “NVC theory supposes that all human behaviour stems from attempts to meet universal human needs and that these needs are never in conflict; rather, conflict arises when strategies for meeting needs clash. NVC proposes that people should identify shared needs, which are revealed by the thoughts and feelings surrounding these needs, and then they should collaborate to develop strategies and make requests of each other to meet each other’s needs. The goal is interpersonal harmony and learning for future cooperation.” (source: Wikipedia)
In his book “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life“, Rosenberg states that “At the core of all anger is a need that is not being fulfilled”.
The way people speak to each other is a powerful thing that can define who a person is in the world. Only by communicating in a non-violence way we will be able to be heard and, beyond that, to work together to tackle all of these scary, complicated problems we face today as a society on a planet an inch away from collapsing.
I leave you with the below TED Talk in which nonviolent-communication trainer, Yoram Mosenzon, teaches us the difference between true honesty, and what we often think is honesty and try to hide. It is funny, it is personal, it is – at times – brutally honest, and even a little weird. I hope you enjoy it.
To learn more about a human-centred approach that can help you tackle complexity in professional environments, check out Echos’ Facilitation Experience 2-day course.
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