February 21, 2021

Tell, Sell and Avoid, or Ask and Be Well

How’s your communication going these days?

You moving things forward? Feeling energetic? Nailing it with Team Think, collaboration, innovation and problem solving despite disruption and unpredictability?

Yeah, right. Maybe at work? Maybe at home? Maybe it’s hard all around? 

There is nothing effortless about communication and engagement.

According to a Gallup Survey, 85% of people are not engaged or actively disengaged in their work. 

And this survey was before the pandemic.

I’ve coined a term for our collective state of mind. I call it GWD for Generalized Weariness Disorder.

The symptoms I see?

  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of follow through
  • Lack of purpose
  • Fight, flight or freeze response due to anxiety, the unknown, the unpredictable
  • Losing your car keys in the grocery store, unable to drive home and upon finding your keys and getting into the car, splattering your green drink all over the dashboard 

What would you add from this week?

It’s tiring to support greater engagement from others when we ourselves are weighted under weariness.

 Your Ask to Tell: Inquiry to Advocacy Ratio

We have two basic patterns to move things forward. We either tell and sell (maybe even yell), or we ask questions. It’s our spectrum of influence. Tim Clark, in The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety elaborates:

“You’re either trying to figure something out or you’re trying to convince others that you have figured it out…Obviously, these two things translate into two clear behavioral patterns. When you’re engaged in inquiry, when you’re trying to figure something out, when you’re in discovery mode, what are you doing as you participate in dialogue or discussion? That’s right, you’re asking questions. On the other hand, if you’re engaged in advocacy, trying to influence others toward your point of view, what are you doing? Right again, you’re telling.”

Tell or Sell: The Low Signal to Noise Ratio

For some of us, our reaction to GWD pushes us into telling and selling. It’s a rut we fall into when anxious, worried, impatient, pressured – and when we are not self-aware of our feelings. In the moment, it actually may feel productive. But the problem is that it doesn’t yield more engagement.

Why? Well, think about it. Do you like it when someone tells you what to do?

With tell and sell, the receiver hears an awful lot of noise with little or no opportunity for engagement. And thus at some point, they simply tune us out. 

Avoid: The No Signal to Noise Ratio  

For others of us, our reaction to GWD drops us deeper into retreat. While no response may seem an appropriate solution to chaos, it is insidiously damaging.

Why? Think about a time when you received no feedback on a job or accomplishment. What happened to your motivation?

A lack of feedback, of positive, regular, short responses with clients, colleagues, staff, family and friends will trigger (more) uncertainty. 

Did she get my e-mail? Did he notice my additional effort? Does she recognize my expertise? Is he angry at me? Am I having any impact here?

Uncertainty is not harmless. Uncertainty triggers distrust in our brain, the opposite of what we want in conversation. Judith Glaser in Conversational Intelligence notes:

“Being in synch with others is vital to healthy relationships. And it’s not just a metaphor. Research indicates that when we are comfortable with someone, our heartbeat becomes more coherent, sending signals to the brain to relax, open up, and share with that person. When gaps arise between what we expect and what we get, we become uncertain of our relationship and our fear networks begin to take control of our brains. As a result, we find ourselves lacking the neurochemical and hormonal support for placing trust in others.” 

Ask and Be Well 

When our hands, head and hearts are working together, we have a culture of high trust, well-being and psychological safety. And asking is a definite path forward for inclusion and innovation. So I ask you (and me equally often):

  • What is working well in your communication? 
  • What will you do to further model, mentor and inspire a healthier Ask to Tell: Inquiry to Advocacy ratio?
  • What will you do to decrease the negative impact of uncertainty in your communications? 

When we trust one another, there is a predictive understanding of one another’s behavior that allows us to be open, curious, creative and at ease.

Here’s to some great discovery conversations ahead!

Best, Deene

Emotional Expression, Emotional Intelligence, Feedback, Generous Listening, Influence and Persuasion, Leadership Development, Uncategorized
Deene Morris
About Deene Morris
Engaging Emotional Intelligence | Team Think Generator | Psychological Safety & Inclusion | Moving Positive Change Forward

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