Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Passive-Aggressive? Here’s Why

Why Are People Passive-Aggressive?-2Passive-aggressiveness, sometimes known as the “nice-nasty,” is communication (behavior) that is “nicety-nice” on the surface. However, the underlying message or intent is mean, rude, nasty, and/or manipulative.  Being on the receiving end of passive-aggressiveness can be frustrating, confounding, hurtful, and can even be the reason to end a relationship, quit a job, or even retaliate.

Passive-aggressiveness takes many forms.

  • Sarcasm
  • Ghosting
  • The Silent Treatment
  • Sabotage
  • Withholding (time, praise, intimacy, opportunity)
  • Backhanded Compliments
  • Hinting

And many, many more.  What these behaviors all have in common is that they allow people who aren’t comfortable being openly aggressive get what they want under the guise of still trying to please others or having “plausible deniability” if called on their behavior.  For example, if someone uses sarcasm and they are confronted by the recipient, they can claim “that’s not what I meant” or even resort to gaslighting (intentionally trying to make the other person doubt themselves or the validity of their perceptions and feelings) with something like “geez – you are too sensitive.”  The passive-aggressive person wants their way, but they also want everyone to still like them and/or not be held accountable for their aggressive behavior.

I am often asked after delivering keynote speeches or programs on communication “Pamela, why are people passive-aggressive?”  Some of the more obvious answers are:

  • They are often insecure.
  • They may have poor communication skills.  They don’t know how to be assertive. (Important note:  assertive and aggressive are very different.)
  • They may struggle with jealously (personal or professional.)
  • They may feel out of control or a need to gain (or regain) power.
  • They may have learned it “works” for them.
  • It allows them to stay in their “comfort zone” and avoid the accountability assertiveness requires.

In addition to these reasons, here are a few less widely talked about, and yet still prevalent reasons.

Anger is often socially unacceptable (especially for women) whereas sugarcoated anger can be socially acceptable. Many people have been taught to “play nice” or that to “be liked” is a top priority. Some people are so uncomfortable with conflict, confrontation and other negative interactions that they will attempt to “keep the peace at any cost.”  While they may feel anger, they are not comfortable expressing it directly for fear of social censure. When the anger gets sugarcoated, that social censure is typically less.

Assertiveness can be simultaneously empowering and terrifying. Passive-aggressiveness can be easier and feel safer than assertiveness.  Being assertive and asking for what you want or need by being direct and clear about your expectations can feel risky. What if your request is denied? What if the recipient of your request belittles your request? Or gets upset? By choosing passive-aggressiveness (indirect communication) individuals give themselves a more palatable explanation for another’s behavior.  For example, if you are frustrated by your colleague’s constant tardiness to meetings you run and you “drop hints” (passive-aggressive)  about their arrival time and despite the hints they continue to arrive late, you can tell yourself “perhaps I wasn’t clear” or “maybe they didn’t understand.”  However, if you opt for the assertive approach and directly (and politely)  tell your colleague that their being late to regularly scheduled meetings you run is frustrating and ask them to be on time (an assertive approach) they may choose not to be on time anyway. With this assertive approach, you can no longer tell yourself “perhaps they didn’t understand.” Now the remaining explanations are less palatable such as “my frustration must not really matter to them.” Sometimes these “less palatable” explanations can be hurtful. Hence why assertiveness can sometimes be terrifying.

Passive-aggressiveness can feel powerful. Because it is often manipulative and can be disconcerting to others, passive-aggressiveness can feel powerful. Passive-aggressiveness is also disrespectful to others. The passive-aggressive person is taking away the other person’s power. It can be a way for an insecure person to gain some of the power and control they feel they are lacking.  Assertiveness, on the other hand, is mutually respectful (power is shared.) The passive-aggresive person doesn’t want to share that power.

Passive-aggressiveness can be easily rationalized. The passive-aggressive person is very adept at justifying their behavior. It is their brain’s way of arguing for their comfort zone. Any twinges of remorse or regret are quickly squashed by an inner or story that negates the necessity for change or personal growth.

While we cannot stop the passive-aggressive person from being passive-aggressive, it is helpful to have a better understanding of what passive-aggressive is and why people use it. For tools and information about how to deal with passive-aggressive people, check out this on-demand webinar. And, if you are looking to build your own assertiveness skills, click here.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

 

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Stop Saying ” I’m Sorry” and Start Saying This Instead

by Pamela Jett, CSP

By now, yomedfr17018u’ve likely seen and heard the advice to “stop saying I’m sorry” in numerous blogs, seminars, books, and speeches by experts like myself.  In fact, I’ve even blogged about it myself before (if you want to read that blog click here.)  Many of us habitually say “I’m sorry.” Often for things we have no need to apologize for. It can be a habit. It can diminish our impact and credibility.  And, it can erode our path to success.

Most experts, myself included, will advise you to replace the “I’m sorry” with “I apologize.”  I apologize is more impactful, you are taken more seriously, and it keeps you from offering apologies where none are warranted.  This is a small change that can make a big difference.

There is another equally powerful replacement.  This replacement allows you build the other person up.  To compliment them on their admirable behavior instead of tearing yourself down or making yourself small.  The replacement for “I’m sorry” is to compliment or praise the other person.  For example:thank-you2

  • Instead of “I’m sorry I took so long to clear the meeting room” try “thanks for waiting so patiently as I cleared the room.”
  • Instead of “I’m sorry I was late” try “I appreciate your kindness in waiting for me.”
  • Instead of “I’m sorry to ask for you help” try “your willingness to help means a lot to me.”

Build the other person up.  Praise or thank them for their actions or response instead of tearing yourself down. While there are still plenty of times when an apology is warranted, often the best course of action is to praise the other party.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

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Increase Your Influence – Before the Meeting Even Starts!

Pamela Jett, CSP

Slide1Would you like to be taken more seriously by your leader?  Are you looking to enhance your influence and make a bigger impact on your organization’s goals and objectives?  Are you seeking to attain the attention, authority, and respect you have earned? Would you like others. especially your leaders, to see you as a motivated, engaged, and high-value team player who is ready to take on even more opportunities?

If so, meetings and other group conversations present a fabulous opportunity to shine.  Chances are, you are doing the basics:

  • You are well prepared.
  • You participate readily and with confidence.
  • You follow-up on your action items.
  • You are supportive and open-minded to the contributions of others.
  • You stay focused on the subject at hand and don’t engage in disruptive behaviors.

However, are you making the most of the opportunity to shine even before the meeting starts? Here are some powerful strategies to leverage.

  • Words to choose and words to lose. Stop using the phrase “I have to go to a meeting” and change it to “I get to go to a meeting.”  When you use the phase “have to” it makes it sound like it is something you don’t want to do.  It can give the impression that others choose for you and you are not empowered or in charge of your own choices.  It might even signal to some that you have a “victim mentality.”  When you make the small change and start to say “I get to” you send a message that you are excited and are glad to be part of the meeting.  You sound empowered, positive, and engaged.  This is a small change that can make a big difference in how you are perceived by others.  Be intentional in your word choice because words matter.
  • Get on the agenda.  Not every meeting or conversation has an agenda (although most meetings ought to if they want to be effective.)  When there is an agenda, maximize that opportunity.  If you have a proposal you want to make, a question you would like to pose, or solution to a problem, or any other meaningful contribution you want to make during the meeting, contact the person running that meeting and ask for some agenda time.  They may not give it to you. However, simply asking shows that you are engaged and ready to participate proactively.  This is especially important if the person running the meeting is your leader.  Don’t wait for them to assign you something.  Be proactive.  Ask yourself, “what meaningful contribution to this meeting can I make?”  And, ask for agenda time if appropriate.  Even if you opt not to ask for agenda time, asking yourself “what meaningful contribution can I make?” can help position you to participate in a meaningful and impactful ways. When I work with executives who are looking for their team members to enhance their communication skills, one of the #1 requests is “please help my team members take more initiative, take more ownership, be more proactive.”  Get on the agenda and you will be demonstrating leadership abilities and be seen as more proactive and engaged.
  • Arrive early.  There are many good reasons to be slightly early to every meeting.  You minimize the risk of arriving late due to be waylaid in the hallways.  You increase the chances of getting a good seat in the room. You will be seen as reliable, respectful, and engaged.  And, you can leverage those few minutes to your advantage.  Put away the cell phones (even if you are standing in the hall waiting for the conference room to be vacated by the previous occupants) and engage in conversation with others who have arrived.  Stop texting and introduce yourself to people you may not know.  Ask a colleague how a project is progressing.  Make small talk.  Look people in the eye.  Smile. Be friendly.  Be professional. Be present.  You will create a memorable impression by having short conversations with those around you. Building your professional network is important and meetings are a great place to do so.  Get to know people and you can easily do that in 5 minutes or so when you arrive early.

Meetings present a tremendous opportunity for you to shine.  Make the most of the opportunities you have to communicate in a confident, professional, and engaged fashion.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

 

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Leaders Unleash the Power of “Yes”

11107790 - voting concept: set of green yes signs isolated on white backgroundAs a leader, have you unleashed the power of yes with your team?  In particular, are you offering unequivocal “yeses” as often as possible? Every leader or manager knows that saying “yes” to an idea, proposal, or request can positively impact morale, engagement, and performance. The power of a “yes” is that it encourages more problem-solving, initiative, and proactivity in a team and among team members.  Unfortunately, many leaders are sabotaging or minimizing the impact of a “yes” by using phrases such as:

  • “Yes, this is good and we should also…” 
  • Yes, I like it.  But, could you also…”
  • “Yes and I would suggest that we…”
  • Yes, but first…”

While these forms of “yes” are still positive (and have their place in the language of leadership), they are also a form of yes with diluted or diminished impact.  When a leader adds a term or condition to their “yes” they are saying to the team or team member that the proposal or idea isn’t good enough to be implemented as it is. Or, at least not good enough yet.  Or, that it could be much better. This “qualified yes” can be disheartening and can decrease motivation and commitment.

Of course, there are times when the “qualified yes” is the smart choice.  As long as it is a choice and not a habit. If you constantly, habitually, or unintentionally qualify all of your positive responses, you may be missing out on the power of the “unequivocal yes.”

When I conduct programs for organizations and associations on leadership and communication, I often ask attendees what behaviors do their leaders engage in (or fail to engage in) that enhance employee engagement or decrease employee engagement. One of the consistent “engaging behaviors” is the “unequivocal yes.”  A “yes” with no conditions, no added value, no tweaks or adjustments.  A “yes” that says to the employee or team “I trust you.” These “yeses” sound like:

  • “Yes, go for it!”
  • “I like it.  Make it happen.”
  • “Great idea. Let’s do it.”

Think about it. Wouldn’t you feel great if your leader simply said “yes” to your next idea, proposal, or initiative? As a leader, ask yourself if you are using this simple engagement technique as often as you could.  Or, out of habit, do you qualify most, if not all, of your “yeses?” I encourage you to look for an immediate opportunity to give a “yes” without condition or constraint.  Unleash the power of the “unequivocal yes!”

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

Help Your Team Manage Up

Crucial Conversations: Don’t Start Them This Way

Stop Apologizing…Start Thanking

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A “High Caliber Communication” Question

ask yourselfYou may have heard or read some version of the following:

The quality of your life is, to a degree, directly related to the quality of the questions you ask.

As a leadership and communication expert, I believe that the following is also true:

The quality of your leadership is related to the quality of the questions you ask.

This goes for the types of questions you ask your team, your peers, your leaders, as well as the questions you ask yourself.

There is one key question that high caliber leaders and communicators can ask themselves that can directly impact their success as a leader and as a professional.  That question is:

How do I want the people I lead to feel?

Research is very clear that how people feel at work, particularly how their leader makes them feel, is a key driver of engagement, retention, teamwork, productivity, and more. When people feel valued and respected, for example, they are more likely to stay engaged and committed. In contrast, when employees don’t think their leader appreciates them or if they feel they “work for a jerk” they are highly likely to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Ask yourself, how do I want people to feel? If you are like most high caliber leaders, you want people to feel:

  • appreciated
  • respected
  • empowered
  • confident
  • trusted
  • challenged
  • energized
  • valued

Is the way you are communicating reflecting that goal? Are you choosing the words that build people up or the words that tear people down? Are you unwittingly sabotaging your success by bad communication habits such as asking “Are you busy?”

High caliber leaders and professionals know the questions they ask of themselves can be just as important as the questions they ask of others. Asking, “How do I want my employees (my boss, my peers, my audience, my family, my party guests…) to feel?” in any given situation can help you make communication choices that yield positive results.

If you would like to communicate in a way that is congruent with the positive feelings you would like to people to have, if you would like to avoid sabotaging your leadership success with poor communication choices, and you would like to enhance employee engagement by communicating as a “power to” leader instead of a “power over” leader, I invite you to join my upcoming webinar, “High Caliber Communication.”

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

The Best Question to Ask Yourself as a Leader

3 Keys to High Caliber Communication – Are You Using Them?

Leader’s Toolkit for Difficult and Disciplinary Conversations – Webinar

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3 Keys to High Caliber Communication – Are You Using Them?

words_have power_SQHave you ever noticed that some people seem to naturally communicate in a confident and engaging way without coming on too strong or being a pushover? Do you know professionals who are able to present their ideas and solutions in ways that get attention, authority and respect while others seem to flounder or fail to persuade?

Would you, or members of your team, like to  communicate in a more compelling fashion for greater credibility, influence, and impact?  If so, the upcoming webinar “High Caliber Communication” is a fast-paced and content-rich program you can easily access.

The live broadcast is on February 18, 2016 at 12:00 PT (1:00 MT, 2:00 CT, 3:00 ET.)  Every registration comes with a complimentary downloadable version of the live event, so no need to fret if the live broadcast time doesn’t work for you.  You can learn (and review) at a time that is convenient for you!

In this hour-long event, we will discuss 3 very important things high caliber communicators do differently from average communicators.

High caliber communication is:

  1. Positive
  2. Future focused
  3. Specific

Learn how to integrate these 3 key factors into all types of communication.

Boost your communication effectiveness and drive results

  • Discover the words to choose and the words to lose to give more effective directions, instructions, and delegation for enhanced results.
  • Master the art of feedback that moves people, even poor performers, to behavior change and improved performance.
  • Enhance your ability to ask high caliber questions that uncover hidden barriers to success and high performance.

Leverage High Caliber Communication for Enhanced Leadership and Career Success

  • Learn what high caliber leaders and communicators know about the relationship dimension of communication and make that insight work to boost employee engagement no matter your job description or title.
  • Uncover 5 communication bad habits that might be sabotaging your leadership and credibility.
  • Discover how to effectively communicate your value to your organization, without being pushy.

Pump up personal and team productivity with high caliber communication.

  • Stop the tyranny of the trivial. Master the art of setting limits and boundaries to focus on strategic goals and objectives.
  • Enhance your critical thinking and decision-making skills and start getting (more) credit for contributions.
  • Keep teams on track and on target with better communication during meetings and group conversations.

Whether you are a seasoned leader or a team member looking for enhanced career success, high caliber communication skills can be your ticket to success! Join us February 18, 2016.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.

You might also enjoy:

3 Easy Phrases to Use in 2016 to Communicate More Effectively

What Not to Say: A Guide to Keeping Your Foot Out of Your Mouth – Webinar!

Leader’s Toolkit for Difficult and Disciplinary Conversations – Webinar

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The Biggest Conflict Mistake You Don’t Know You’re Making

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Yelling cartoon

Has this ever happened to you? You are in the midst of a crucial conversation and the other person becomes very emotional or intense. They might even begin to yell or behave in a hostile fashion. Most people will the get drawn into a discussion of this inappropriate behavior.  The conversation may then continue along the lines of :

  • “Stop yelling at me.”
  • “I’m not yelling!”
  • “Yes, you are!”
  • “Well, you don’t listen!

The conversation, which may originally have been about a crucial business or personal issue, has now morphed into a “conversation about how you are having the conversation.”  This is known as meta-commuication, communication about communication.  And, while it has it’s place, it is a poor choice to meta-communicate right in the middle of conflict and confrontation.

The next time someone engages in an (inappropriate) emotional outburst during conflict, resist the temptation to start talking about how they are communicating and stay focused on the core issue as much as possible. This doesn’t mean to let others bully or to continue to be mean, rude and nasty. However, if you can use other assertive techniques first (like the feel, felt, found technique) instead of calling out their behavior, you stand a greater chance of reaching resolution on the core issue.

Avoid the biggest conflict mistake you perhaps didn’t know you were making. Avoid meta-communication in the midst of conflict and stick to the issue at hand.

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Be Relentless When Dealing with Difficult People

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Today i am happyWhen dealing with difficult people, be relentless. Relentlessly positive, that is. The focus of my recent webinar “Snipers, Steamrollers, and Chronic Complainers” was on words to choose and words to lose in order to train difficult people that their difficult behavior won’t be rewarded. In addition to knowing what to say to difficult people, attitude also matters.

A relentlessly positive attitude is one of the best ways to communicate with a difficult person. For example, when a complainer complainers, be relentlessly positive and respond with something good about the situation. When a whiner whines “is it Friday yet” respond with the relentlessly positive “I plan on having a good day today!”

Choose to be positive in the face of their negativity. While this may sound naive, “Pollyanna” or even unrealistic, try it. It sure beats being negative!

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Wet Blanket Negativists and the Art of the Question

protect your enthusiasmby Pamela Jett, CSP

You  know the type, Don’t you? The person who makes blanket statements such as “that won’t work” or “it will take too much time” or  “that will cost too much money” in response to every new idea or proposal? These people are what I call Wet Blanket Negativists. They want to squash any new idea or put out the fire of energy around new proposals. Here are a few facts about them:

 

  • Their behavior is (typically) motivated out of fear.
  • They rarely (if ever) come up with their own ideas or solutions.
  • They typically can’t back up their negative statements with real reasons.

The high-caliber leader knows how to respond to those smothering statements. They use the art of the question. The next time a Wet Blanket Negativist tries that on you or a member of your team, try asking questions such as:

  • What part, specifically, do you think won’t work?
  • How much time is too much time and what would be a better amount?
  • How much money do you think ought to be spent?

Remember, they won’t likely have an answer. They will back-pedal or give some sort of vague “It’s just won’t work” reiteration. When they do, let them off the hook gently.

However, the next time they try to smother an idea with their wet blanket statement, they will think twice about it because they know you will ask them to back it up.

Enjoy this technique? If so, you can find more like it at my up-coming webinar “Snipers, Steamrollers, and Chronic Complainers.” More information can be found at http://JettWebinars.com.

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#1 Way to Deal With Difficult People

Java Printingby Pamela Jett, CSP

Difficult people are everywhere. There are exploders, snipers, steamrollers, and chronic complainers in our personal lives and in our professional lives. While it might be possible in our personal lives to avoid difficult people to a degree, it is virtually impossible to do so at work.

To make things even more challenging, we can’t make a difficult person not be difficult. What is helpful is to understand the #1 reason difficult people are difficult.

Difficult people are difficult because it is working for them.

They are getting some sort of reward or payoff with their difficult behavior. Perhaps it is attention. Perhaps it is a sense of power of control. Perhaps their reward is that they get their way.

While we can’t make them not be difficult, we can train the difficult person that while their difficult behavior might be working with others, it does not work with us. Ask yourself “what is the reward they are seeking?” And, then decide if you are willing to give it. Sometimes it is a simple as deciding not to commiserate with a chronic complainer or to not explode back (or give them control) when an exploder explodes.

For more techniques to deal with difficult people, check out the up-coming webinar “Snipers, Steamrollers, and Chronic Complainers” at JettWebinars.com.

 

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