Filling the void

2012

One of the reasons that verbal abuse ¬– be it negative and demeaning criticism, gossip, bullying or other types of verbal assaults ¬- is common in the workplace is that many people lack the basic conversation skills that enable them to speak to others openly and respectfully about what really matters.

In contrast, those who are comfortable in their own skin, who are able to listen and understand consciously, who possess effective communication skills, who are able to speak up and speak out respectfully and who can discuss difficult topics with a sense of ease and grace, are healthier than those who are unwilling or unable to do so.

In the workplace, those individuals who say they have healthy relationships with bosses, direct reports, co-workers and other stakeholders experience less stress and fewer physical, emotional and mental ailments.

The reason those with good dialogue skills have fewer ailments is because they are able to work through issues and conflicts in a healthy way - one that doesn't see them resorting to attacking, belittling, demeaning, dismissing, labeling, insulting, ridiculing, or verbally abusing others.

That's why every organization, team, department, unit or group needs to explore how it encourages and supports the power of dialogue and how individuals interact with one another.

Some questions for self-reflection

  • Do you trust others' opinions?
  • Do you hear as well as listen?
  • Do you ask others, "What do you think?" on a regular basis?
  • Do you make it safe for others to speak?
  • Do you create roadblocks to effective communication? If so, why?
  • How do you feel when you think you're not being heard?
  • Do your colleagues say you are a good listener? Have you ever asked them?
  • Does your labeling or judgment of others kill dialogue?
  • Do you allow ideas to stand on their own merit regardless of who is offering the ideas?
  • Do you scrutinize the messenger as well as the message? If so, why?
  • Is your conversation style punctuated more by periods or by question marks? Why?
  • Do you allow time for dialogue in your workday?
  • Do you communicate to others that you "matter?"

For example, are employees allowed, even encouraged, to speak their minds? Are they encouraged to share information widely (as appropriate)? Are all stakeholders asked for their input on important decisions? Do leaders, managers, supervisors and team leaders ask their direct reports, "what do you think?" early and often?

In essence, does your organization, department or team empower its members to contribute and engage in healthy conversation and dialogue? Does your organization train for, and consciously value and support, open and honest dialogue?

Where there is no opportunity to speak up, speak out, ask questions, contribute, and engage, there is a void. Where individuals lack the skills to dialogue effectively, there is a void. And, employees, like nature, abhor a vacuum. If a conversational void exists, if your organization or team inhibits open and honest communication, your employees will most assuredly find a way to fill it.

Unfortunately, the method many employees use to fill the void are more often than not self-destructive and self-sabotaging: rumors, gossip, complaining, nit-picking, blaming, bitching, moaning, finger-pointing, and out-and-out lying.

So, there it is. Your organization's positive energy and vitality is entirely dependent on effective communication and dialogue. When your employees engage, with their hearts and minds, openly and honestly, shared meaning is the result. Healthy communication begets healthy relationships and healthy relationships beget a healthy organization.

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.