Reframing Perceptions

I was introduced as a resource to Sarah, a leader who is working on an initiative that is very important to her professional advancement. Our interaction was limited in that it was over text.

I tried to engage Sarah during these exchanges, to no avail. I understood her communication style, which was direct and to the point. Although I tried to be open minded, her directness and aloofness influenced my perceptions.

Finally, we spoke.

Sarah is an extremely talented professional, struggling to hold her own and make her mark in an organization that does not fully respect her vision and ability. Her communication style is a reflection of her challenges on the job. I won’t say more about this, because it’s not the point of today’s message.

Instead, let me share a few key takeaways.

First, you need to talk! Voice conveys so much more than email or text. Our text dialogue, by the way, wasn’t due to the avoidance of talking; it was a scheduling challenge. Don’t join the leagues of digital communicators who are no longer able to communicate effectively by speaking!

Second, the Steven Covey adage “seek first to understand, not to be understood” comes to mind. Although it’s frustrating when you can’t engage someone, remember that you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Don’t write a script based on what you don’t know.

Third, provide value. I don’t know what the outcome of my interaction with Sarah will be, but I what I do know is that she left our conversation with ideas and information with a little inspiration thrown in. I provided content, encouragement and understanding.

I know you’ve experienced situations like this, whether personally, with employees, clients or vendors. I shared the anecdote as a reminder that although your perceptions may be fairly accurate, suspend judgment and be open to what you don’t know until you understand the bigger picture.

Header image by Cottonbro Studio/Pexels.

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