How To Expose Yourself In The Workplace — And Not Be a Creep

A few years ago, I realized that nearly all of the things that irritate me about my interactions with other people are a result of my own lack of communication.

Here’s what I mean: In any given situation where you feel disappointed, angry, or frustrated at an outcome you’re experiencing with someone, have you stopped to think about why it is you’re feeling this way?

What first comes to mind may be helpful — but if you continue asking yourself “why” after the first thought/reason (and repeat this process a few times), you may come to a more refined understanding of what’s driving your discomfort.

What I came to realize is that in my interactions with others, I was becoming upset — or feeling let down — because I operate from a set of viewpoints that are fully to known to me, but completely unknown to the person I’m working with.  From one perspective, these viewpoints are all I know, and because they’ve been with me for 30+ years, I somehow feel others know these things about me too.

But of course that’s silly and nearly impossible.  They’re not mind-readers!

Once I realized this, I decided to write out these viewpoints in a simple list (particular to the work environment), and share/discuss them with everyone around me.  I make it a point to do this with new hires.

It takes some vulnerability — and I’ve often received very surprised looks when I do this, especially during an interview or first day on the job — but I think that this exercise has helped me give the other person a frame of reference for why I behave, respond, and think the way I do.

My hope is that this makes it a tiny bit easier for us to do great work together.  And through leading in vulnerability, I also seek to give them a platform to feel comfortable with me.

If you’re interested, here’s my list, which I call “This is Dave”.

What do you think? Have you ever stopped to think about what’s on your list?  What are some of those things?  Would exposing these things be scary — or liberating?

Success Factors No One Talks About: How The # of Yucky Convos You’re Willing to Have Is Strangely Correlated w/Your Success

In order to move forward, whether it be your organization, your project team, or even a personal relationship, I’ve found that it takes leaning into uncomfortable, yucky conversations to really take steps forward.

You know the types of conversations I’m talking about, right? The ones you dread. The ones that keep you up at night. The ones you’d rather fast-forward through and not have to live through in real-time. But what I have found time and time again, is that when we’re willing to lean into those uncomfortable conversations … we end up obtaining real progress.

And when we realize that forcing ourselves through these conversations is directly correlated with our success, great things can happen.

Progress that changes the quality of our life. Progress that improves the ability you have to get things done, like make better software, strengthen your relationship with a business partner, or improve your marriage. The alternative is ugly. Not having these conversations can make you miserable, as they can suck up enormous amounts of brain energy if left unaddressed. Not to mention the stories we create in our minds about the other person and their motives!

Here’s what I’ve found helpful in getting myself geared up for (and having) these types of conversations:

  • Have talking points.  Write them down, think about their order, and if you’re disciplined, use some mental imagery to imagine yourself delivering them.  Work through the most extreme and uncomfortable situations in your head.  The act of playing scenarios out in your head in advance can do amazing things.
  • During the conversation, have an outlet for that nervous, yucky energy.  Have you felt this?  Sometimes during a meeting it’s just plain awkward.  I’ve found that it is good to have a release of this tension, but it’s usually not socially appropriate to punch a wall.  Instead, here’s a tip: curl your toes tightly in your shoe.  No one can see you do it, but I’ve found that it helps release that energy.  You look calm on the surface, but inside that shoe it’s another story!
  • Put your conversation in perspective.  For example, talking to that team member about how they’re not meeting your expectations — is it really that bad?  Sometimes I’ll imagine a much more difficult scenario.  What if I were a doctor, having to tell a mother that her child has passed?  In view of that type of conversation, my fears will sometimes subside.

What about you: have you noticed that when you’re willing to have uncomfortable conversations, you actually move forward?  Have you noticed that people who seem to make stuff happen are the ones who don’t seem to mind having yucky conversations?

(Or maybe they do mind, but are just curling their toes!)

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