We’ve been discussing the role that our personal filters play in how we communicate and listen. We gave you some tips on how to be aware of the filters you bring into conversations so that you can do your part to keep communication on a productive path.
Today we will talk about the filters that your employees may bring into your interactions with them and the best way to respond when this happens.
Ideally, everyone communicates while being acutely aware of their underlying thoughts and feelings. But that’s a challenge to do on a good day and especially difficult when feeling stressed. While others are responsible for managing their triggers and filters, as a leader you need to be mindful of potential dynamics that might be at play as you communicate with your staff.
Here are some common ones we have seen:
Power differentials: Even when you have a great relationship with your supervisees, you must remember that you are still the boss in their eyes. This means that everything you say and do will be heard through this lens. What they feel comfortable sharing with you will also go through this filter.
Anxiety: For some employees it will be obvious that they carry anxiety about their performance, their job security, or how you view them. Others keep these feelings very close to the vest. Either way, remember that anxiety tends to have a detrimental impact on how we intake and retain information.
Past work experiences: Sometimes even your most loyal employees will turn on you when you have to make a difficult and unpleasant decision. Often, what’s at play here is not that they are turning on you but that their filters from previous jobs are at play. You may be on the receiving end of frustrations more applicable to their former boss.
Personal baggage: Of course, all of us carry the regular stuff that comes with being human: family obligations, financial stressors, health issues, and the like. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to leave it all at home. Remember that when your employees are experiencing external life stressors, it can influence their capacity to focus and listen.
If you think some of your employees’ filters may be playing a role in your communications with them, there are few things you can do.
Respectfully ask. This may sound something like, “I feel like we’re not really hearing each other. Is everything ok with you? Are there some things that would be helpful for me to know about how you’re doing?”
Don’t escalate tense situations by responding to personal attacks. Stay even keeled and try not to take their comments personally.
Circle back around to important communications that occurred when you and/or your staff was under duress. Re-communicating under more relaxed circumstances can make it easier to hear and comprehend accurately.
Does your workplace need some communication training? Send us an email. We’d love to help.