Have you ever heard comments like this in your workplace?
“What an idiot!”
“Why are we required to do this?”
“This is stupid!”
We get frustrated when we speak like this! We become frustrated and complain, which some organizations try to squash because they create a cloud over negativity. It doesn’t make for great teamwork to call someone an idiot. However, I believe words like “idiot,” “stupid,” and “stupid” are helpful because they help us to move from anger towards creative problem-solving. Here’s how.
You can use the “stupid” word to turn your fury into curiosity. If you find yourself getting angry at others’ stupidity and berating them, think about what if you assume they are not stupid and ask the same questions but with a different tone.
After a long day of visiting potential customers, it is frustrating to find a dozen messages left by customer service representatives for you. “What idiots! They should have answered these questions and not referred them to me. You think.
What if you were to ask the same question but with a different tone? Why didn’t customer service respond to those calls? They might lack confidence when handling queries. In which case, they may need additional training. Perhaps they have experienced a commotion once they have mishandled a question. Maybe the customers wanted to speak directly with you. Maybe the staff made a dozen calls and then referred you to 45. However, they answered 45 calls during a day when they were exhausted. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
It is important to remember that you can go from being furious to curious and still ask the same question with genuine curiosity. This will help you accomplish three things. 1) You decrease your stress. 2) You discover possible solutions. 3) It is easier to approach your partner about the problem in a problem-solving mindset than in an attack mode.
Sometimes, we are frustrated and don’t believe that they are acting out of stupidity. There is another explanation. He’s just a jerk! We explain, or she’s just lazy. This brings us to Tip #2.
You might notice when you think, “he’s just a jerk” or “she doesn’t care.” Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, “Why would anyone do that?” We believe that we know the answer. We conclude that they don’t want to work as hard as us or are selfish, inconsiderate, and so forth. Sometimes these accusations may be true. There’s another possibility. Perhaps the person has a blind spot.
I started teaching part-time at another college after teaching some classes while I was a graduate student. I was called into the office by the chair of his department to check on the situation. He told me during the conversation that another faculty member had complained about my inconsiderate – at the conclusion of my classes, I was leaving my chalked notes on the blackboard.
Did I act inconsiderately? Was it inconsiderate? It was common for me to see the previous instructor filling the room in college. I had a habit of marking the board with my class and leaving it there. I had never thought to erase my notes from the board in this new environment.
If you find yourself judging others for being indifferent, careless, or lazy, consider if you can give them the benefit of the doubt. You might be wrong, but they may just have a blind spot. You can help them to understand the problem situation by giving them the benefit of the doubt. You could say, “I’m trying to understand what happened here.” You might also ask, “Why did that happen?” Because your voice is not accusatory, you can talk about the subject without being defensive.
Ask yourself: “Is it possible that my blind spot is also a blind spot?” We sometimes say, “This makes no sense to me,” when we get frustrated at the behavior of others. It’s beyond my comprehension why anyone would do this. If we are unable to understand the motivation behind our client, vendor, or team member’s actions, we may also be blind. We don’t see the situation through the eyes of the other person.
One team member becomes frustrated when his colleagues do not follow his advice. He wonders why he wastes his time trying to give the benefit of my many years of experience to these people when they refuse my suggestions.
The team member who can see the solutions quickly is able to offer them and hopes they will be accepted. He doesn’t see what he is doing wrong. He believes he knows all the answers within the first two minutes of the discussion. This makes him blind to other members’ struggles. He doesn’t realize they deserve to feel heard. He doesn’t ask them about their past experiences in solving the problem and instead suggests solutions that they feel are not feasible based on past experiences. He doesn’t work well with them as a group to find answers.
If you find yourself thinking that the situation is not understandable, think about whether you have a blind spot. Is there something I am missing? Talk to the people involved to gain a better understanding and form a partnership to solve creative problems together.
Madeleine Van Hecke, Ph.D., is the author of Blind Spots. Why Smart People Do Dumb Things (Prometheus Books, Inc., 2007, 2007), she gives workshops and seminars about reducing negativity at work, improving communication, stress management, and encouraging innovation. Visit www. whattodowhenother people’s blind spots are driving you crazy for more free articles.