Lack of Professionalism in Communication – Why it happens and What to do

25 Apr
by Bridget DiCello

Why do we react in ways that may not be professional?

Anger, frustration, lack of patience, sarcasm, abruptness, or any of many other reactions that may damage professional relationships, cause tension, result in lack of performance and initiative, and resistance.

Consider these truths:

  1. While we are well beyond animalistic and untamed in our responses, we still have emotional reactions based on our passions, beliefs and frustrations.
  2. Despite these initial reactions, we have the ability to decide what to do and say next, if we decide to use that Opportunity Space before we respond.
  3. Every person has their own ‘good and valid reason’ for doing and saying what they do and say, which makes sense to them, even if it doesn’t seem ‘good’ or ‘valid’ to others.

What does ‘emotional’ look like in the business world?

Emotional reactions in the business world come in the forms of:

  • loud verbal frustration with performance of lack thereof,
  • avoidance of people or situations,
  • saying everything is okay and yet complaining when the person isn’t around,
  • sarcasm with coworkers or employees,
  • refusing to speak to another professional or gossiping,
  • firing or writing off employees as incapable to avoid the tense conversation, just to name a few.

Why do ‘emotions’ have to get in the way?

Personally, I would much rather corral emotions than deal with someone who has let their passions be buried by life’s stressors, failures, and the beliefs of others.  ‘Emotions’ come into play because we are passionate, full of potential and see opportunities in the world of how things should be and could be.  Every one of us does.  If you feel your passion has been dulled by life’s events – find it again.  It’s a good thing and a powerful force.

Simple example:  Driving on the country road by my house, following a vehicle going 24mph in a 45mph zone, where I had been known to drive 65+mph in my Audi S4 before I started driving the mini-van…  I begin to get emotional, frustrated and mad because of this person’s slow driving.  Why?  Because I’m just an emotional, grumpy person?  No, it’s because there are certain things I am personally passionate about:

  1. Unused potential – we could get somewhere a whole lot faster if we went the speed limit, and we could use our time much more productively than driving.  I thrive on finding unused potential and maximizing results – even if those results would be to have an extra 10 minutes to play with Lincoln Logs with my children.
  2. Lack of concern for others – when someone ignores the impact they are having on others, they cause unneeded stress and frustration, and possibly have more serious consequences if there is a more critical reason to get somewhere.
  3. I don’t like being late – because I see it as inconsiderate of the other person’s time, we were already running late for soccer practice, and I could make up a bit of time on this country road.

At the same time, as a former Nursing Home Administrator, I’m compassionate to the elderly driver, who may be preserving their freedom by continuing to drive, while going slowly to compensate for senses and reflexes that aren’t as strong as they used to be.  So, immediately my emotions calm down, until I see the elderly driver talking on the cell phone in the car in front of me.

It’s not about you!

Remember, it’s typically not about you, and another’s behavior is usually not meant to be a personal attack.   People do things for their own reasons, based on what is happening in their world, and often do not consider, or purposely plan, consequences that affect you.

How to address situations that cause ‘emotional’ reactions?

Use the moment between when they say or do something and you react, which I’ve called the Opportunity Space, to make the best decision.  Consider:

  1. What do you want to accomplish in the long term?  Your own mental and physical health?  Productive relationship with this person?  Specific results you may need this person’s help with?  Utilization of strengths you believe to be present in the person who is aggravating you?
  2. Where are they coming from?  They have a ‘good and valid reason’ for doing what they are doing – in their head, it makes sense.  Think of six possible reasons why they are doing what they are doing, see if you can learn how they are thinking, identify common beliefs and values, pinpoint a common goal or common approach on which you can agree, and then move forward to a solution.
  3. How are you making them feel?  Your words, non-verbal expressions, and actions can have serious consequences on another person.  Remember, they are an ‘emotional’ being that has strong passions and beliefs as well.  You cannot take back words and it takes a lot longer to repair a relationship than to keep trust and respect by acting purposefully.

Once you get emotional in a conversation, it ceases to be productive and you lose credibility – regardless of what prompted your behavior.

Note:  This assumes each person’s best intentions and there are situations where people trigger your emotional response on purpose, to manipulate the situation, or out of anger.  You should be alert to these possibilities and consider those with whom you interact.

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