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#WFH: Did You Start the Conversation?

In the virtual world, we make inferences based more on instinct. We select data from the past more than from observable behaviors. We draw conclusions and form ideas from our own inner voices and what these voices tell us. To do this, however, we have to slow down and sort out our point of view from theirs. Often, we become automatically convinced that our point of view is the only point of view. Our beliefs are reality. When our beliefs are our perception of reality avoiding the conversation will not solve the problem. As Harvey Cox said, “Not to decide is to decide.” In the virtual environment, not having the courage to have the conversations, the critical conversations, will deepen the divide. This will further damage the relationship. The lack of visual cues already makes it difficult to read intention and interpret meaning. Silence in this environment can be devastating. To solve problems, we want to engage in a dialogue. This means we need to get both parties talking. Dialogue, by definition, is between two parties. To have a dialogue, we must suspend the notion that one party is right and the other party is wrong. We should stop pointing fingers and openly engage in a conversation.

The best way to get a conversation started is to do it ourselves. Don’t wait for the other person to create the conversation. Open the conversation in a non-accusatory way and use I statements rath-er than you statements. You statements carry with them a feeling of judgment and blame. We want to state in terms of “who, what, when, where and why by using a calm voice and “I.” For example: “I would prefer if the committee would…,” “Given my choice, I would rather the customer would…,” “I choose to believe that…,” etc.” We want to describe our position and not point fingers or pass judgment. Nothing will cause disengagement to accelerate more quickly than asserting blame and shame.

The biggest challenge in this type of communication, for most people, is to slow down long enough to do it. Using the first person has the effect of cutting down on critical judgment. This opens the communication by taking away the blame. Whether we agree or disagree, it normalizes the situation. Try to avoid statements like “I think you are…,” which is just a way of hiding the “you are” part of the communication and is still a judgment. Use present tense as much as possible. Avoid the future and the past tenses. Also avoid should have, would have and could have statements as much as possible.

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