No, I’m not asking for advice on how to end toxic relationships, romantic, platonic, work or otherwise. I’m asking what state of mind you leave people in after you’ve visited them.
Are you aware (ie do you have self-awareness) of the way you come across to your audience?
I’ve had two interactions this past week – each lasting 2-2.5 hours – and each leaving me totally exhausted and spent.
You might be a leader with an open door policy, or have a team with whom you meet 1×1 regularly. Or, you might have a particular friend or friends you feel loyal to for a particular reason. So you listen because that is your nature/job/felt obligation. But how do you feel when they have left your company?
One was an interaction from a mature person, who incessantly complained about four different workplace cultural issues, but would finish each with “I’m not complaining though” and to which I responded to each complaint “It sounds like you’re complaining. What’s the solution? Let’s talk about some solutions”. Unfortunately, there were no solutions from their point of view, other than my “You don’t need to participate in [insert cultural complaint here]. It’s completely optional” to which the individual would respond with the next complaint and repeat “But I’m not complaining” and so the conversation circled.
To their credit, after 2.5 hours this person did acknowledge they had taken up a lot of my time, thanked me, and promptly left the room. I couldn’t concentrate for the rest of the day. I cover this in HR Hot Tip #47 in my book.
The second was a person who spoke non-stop about various topics I won’t go into, but did not allow me to say a word for some 45 minutes, until I was gratefully interrupted by a phone call. Sadly, the phone call went for only 3 minutes, and I went back to the same conversation (if you can call it that) which went on for a further hour or so, until they said they would be leaving in five minutes, which turned in to 35.
This was not a pleasant, enjoyable two-way discussion at all, where two individuals swap ideas and viewpoints, but someone blissfully unaware of their ramblings ad nauseam and I nodding and making ah-huh noises in all the right places. I honestly had no clue what they were even saying, and to make matters worse, I couldn’t get a word in edgeways to actually seek to understand. This person left my presence, and I needed to meditate and breathe deeply to restore myself. That turned out to be ineffective, so I ended up calling another friend known to this person, to say “OMG this just happened and I need to tell someone”. Thankfully, that helped a little bit, speaking to someone who “got it”, but I was still buggered for the rest of the day, and even now as I write this, I’m still a little perplexed and exhausted by this whole encounter.
Do you actively participate in two-way conversations, or do you do all the talking, unaware that you are doing this, failing to see the other person’s body language, and failing to see that you haven’t heard them say anything for A LONG TIME? What happened to problem solving together and discussing, agreeing or disagreeing, and moving forward? Both of these encounters in my view were from people who were just seeking ears – any ears – that would listen to whatever complaint or alleged wisdom they wanted to share. I don’t think the intent was to exhaust me; I just think they were unaware of how they came across and the way they left me.
I am grateful for the interactions however, because it reminded me that we have the power (usually) to choose where we place our energy and who we want to hang out with. Eerily, I happened across the above meme on Facebook the following day (or maybe that’s just Facebook reading my mind in action) and I thought, crikey, I know what their trademarks are. What is mine?
I’ve always tried to consciously interact in a positive way without being rude. I always try my best to listen first and speak second and to let people finish their sentences without cutting them off, but it doesn’t always happen that way. What I do know is I will limit my availability for these types of conversations if I can help it.
But I ask you – what is your trademark?