Are you a Judgmental Communicator

Are you a Judgmental Communicator?

Bob: Rhonda, we need to have a conversation about next week’s meeting.
Rhonda thinks: Yeah—you’re just trying to get me to do all the work, aren’t you?
Rhonda says:
Certainly. When works best for you?
Rhonda thinks: Please say ‘never.’
How is Monday at 9 a.m.?
Rhonda thinks: That will give you the opportunity to ruin my entire week you jerk, and I’m not going to let you!
Rhonda says:
I’ve scheduled another meeting at that time, how is 3:30, instead?

I admit that there are some people I really don’t like. I have my reasons for that, but once I get to the stage that I dislike you, my inner dialogue makes me a bad communicator. As you can imagine, it can hurt me professionally as well as personally.

But I’m betting we’re a bit like this, aren’t we? You just need to see that one person and instantly your hackles rise, your back straightens, and you’re ready for battle. Without you realizing it you become argumentative, feeling the need to take control, and creating a tense situation that you both recognize.

The danger in being a judgmental communicator is high, but there are a few things you can do to help yourself.

Here is what you can do when you realize the person you are speaking to causes you to react negatively.

  1. Tell your face to pretend
    Some people are like an open book—they’re easy to read. The look on their face is clearly one of disgust, and as you can imagine, the other person can see that. If this is you, and a smile is appropriate, then smile. If an interested expression is what’s needed, then tell yourself to look interested.

What we typically try to do is maintain a blank expression, which rarely happens. Instead, we practice the eyebrow raise, the sneer, or the distracted gaze into the sky, all of which send the signal to the other person that you don’t like them.

  1. Uncross your arms
    We have all heard a thousand times that crossed arms send the signal that we are defensive, not listening, or not engaged. However, it isn’t always true—it could mean that you are comfortable or simply cold. However, when there is tension in your relationship (and if you dislike the other person there is tension in your relationship) crossed arms send a very negative signal.
  1. Check your personal space
    Some people are those “close talkers” who like to stand very close when you are chatting. However, when you don’t like someone, the typical reaction is to leave even more space between you. This creates a physical distance which is reflective of your relationship.

I’m not saying you should step in close to them. But you should ensure that you aren’t too far away from them, either. In North America, the personal zone for conversation is about two to four feet apart. And yes, that is cultural, so adjust it as necessary. Your arms are about two feet long, which means that you shouldn’t be closer than that (and I’d be surprised if you were), but you also shouldn’t be more than double the length of your arms away, either. That extra physical distance you add to your conversation is communicating that you don’t want to talk to this person. While that may be true for you, it is probably not a good idea to send the other person that message, especially if it is a coworker or a manager at work.

  1. Don’t be overly enthusiastic
    Sometimes we know that we are sending negative messages, so we try a little too hard to pretend we like that person.

Bob: Rhonda, we need to have a conversation about next week’s meeting.
Rhonda: Absolutely, Bob! I would love to catch a coffee together and talk about how we can do that (big smile, overly eager voice).
Bob: How is Monday at 9 a.m.?
Rhonda: Oh, I am so sorry! I’ve scheduled another meeting at that time. Too bad, because I would enjoy our meeting so much better. How is 3:30 instead?

You are trying too hard and it feels fake. The other person knows you are being fake and that can push tension levels even higher. While you do need to pretend, you don’t want to exaggerate, either.

Recognizing that you dislike the other person is the first step to correcting your communication with them. Disliking them is fine—communicating that you dislike them is not fine.

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