I have an innate confidence in my ideas and opinions. Like, I am always convinced that I'm right. That my opinion is the best. That everyone should do I what say. That when I speak up everyone should immediately consider what I'm saying.
Let's look at how well the behavior that accompanies those thoughts has served me in my corporate career:
- Interrupting others in meetings and being seen as impatient and rude? [check]
- Dominating conversations and not letting others talk and being judged as unfriendly and inconsiderate? [check]
- Sriking down ideas without even pausing to consider them and therefore coming across as arrogant and stubborn? [check, check, check]
I'm a catch you guys.
For years I've joked that when people don't agree with me they deserve a throat punch. Which is partly true (see "thinks my ideas are the best ideas" above), but not until recently did I start to realize that I might deserve one too. After all, when I'm trying to get someone to see my point of view, there are two sides to the conversation, and how I am coming across has a huge impact on how they respond to me.
Enter influence styles. There's a lot of research out there - I love this article in the Harvard Biz Review. And this one (Spoiler alert: Yes, my influence style sabotages me sometimes -please say I'm not the only one).
It's taken years of self-awareness practice to understand that even though I'm only 5'2" and smile a lot (harmless, right?), my instinctual word choice, tone, and approach to conversations can be pretty harmful. Harmful to how others see me. How they talk to me. How they feel about the work I do.
Without yelling, I have a way of insisting my ideas are heard and challenging the ideas of others.
I say "but" a lot: Yes, but what I'm saying is that won't work. I say "should" a lot: You should do it this way. I point out my credentials a lot: I have a masters degree in blah blah blah or am officially certified in this whack topic.
So I've been working on this natural tendency to be assertively influential by replacing it with the other styles: Rationalizing, Negotiating, Inspiring, and Bridging. I'm pretty good at saying "Yes! And ..." (do you know this improv trick?) and have replaced word "should" with "could" (some of the best advice I've ever gotten).
I've been seeking to understand situations so I know what style to use, and using guiding questions (see the linked HBR article) to help me channel the right approach.
I'm a work in progress - we all are - and if understanding influence styles has helped me, then I know it can help someone else. If anything, it'll keep you from throat punching someone. Because that mess will cause a lawsuit and then you're really screwed.