Workplace Communication

Is it wrong or just different?

Greetings from Ireland! It’s about 5:25 am here and I’m getting to start my last two full days of my UK/Ireland adventure.

Many people asked me to write about the communication differences I’ve seen while here. I wrote a little about that in last week’s Monday Motivation and will likely write more, in-depth pieces in future bogs, but f or now, one major thing stands out for me about the communication differences between the US and the UK/Ireland:

Sometimes a difference is just a difference.

Not right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse, but just different. It made me think about how we “spin” those differences depending on our own moods, biases, etc. For example, I’ve always had an interest in coming to the UK and love the way the British speak. That positive favor has caused me to interpret behavior differently than I would have if I was in the US. For example, while in the US, I would expect a server in a restaurant to continue to check in with me to see if I needed anything. If he or she didn’t, I’d likely label them as a poor server. However, in the UK, I found myself wondering if the servers were just trying to avoid interrupting our conversation and allowing us to enjoy a private meal. I don’t have the time to get into the “whys” of the differences in behavior right now, but suffice it to say, that my resulting interpretation of what was basically the same behavior, was quite different based on my feeling about the person.

I wonder how many times we interpret people’s behavior or motivations negatively or positively without having any evidence of either? Why do we have to label behavior instead of just accepting it as different?

This week, when you find yourself putting a “spin” on someone’s actions, stop and ask why you’re interpreting it or speculating about the person’s motivation. Maybe the behavior isn’t wrong or right, just different than what you’re used to. If it’s something that has a truly negative impact on you, instead of “running with” your interpretations, it might be worth trying a Perception Check to allow the person to share their intent with you so you can better understand him or her. When you let go of labels or ask instead of assume, you’ll find that you’re better able to remain objective and receive the added bonus of reduced stress and unnecessary upset when things don’t go as you THINK they should.

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