We are currently experiencing a crisis of communication. While this is true of our nation and arguably the world, it‘s also true in our little world of L&D. Recently, there have been at least four different ‘spats‘ about things. While I don‘t want to address the specifics of any of them, what I do want to do is talk about how we engage. So here‘s a post on sensitivities and sensibilities.
First, let me be clear, I‘ve some social issues. I‘m an introvert, and also miss social cues. I also have a bad habit of speaking before I‘ve done the knowledge-check: is this true, kind, and necessary? Subtlety and diplomacies aren‘t my strong suit. I continue to be a work in progress. Still, I never intentionally hurt anyone, at least not anyone who hasn‘t demonstrated a reliable propensity to violate norms that I feel are minimum. I continue to try to refine my responses.
There are two issues, to me: what we should say, and how we should say it. For instance, I think when someone says something wrong, we need to educate. Initially, we need to evaluate the reason. It could be that they don‘t know any better. Or it could be that they‘re deliberately trying to mislead.
Let‘s also realize we‘re emotional animals. If I‘m attacked, for instance, I’m likely to blame myself, even when it’s wrongly. Others are highly unlikely to wear blame, and lash out. We are affected by our current context; we are more critical if we‘re tired or otherwise upset, and on the reverse are more tolerant if rested and content.
I‘m also aware that we have no insight into where someone‘s coming from. We can guess, but we really don‘t know. I really learned this when I was suffering from a pinched nerve in my back; I have more sympathy now since I‘ve come to recognize I don‘t know what anyone else is living with.
So, I‘m trying to come up with some principles about how to respond. For instance, when I write posts about things I think are misguided or misleading, I call out the problems, but not the person, e.g. I don‘t link to the post. I‘m not trying to shame anyone, and instead want to educate the market. I think this is a general principle of feedback: don‘t attack the person, attack the behavior.
Also, if you‘re concerned about something, ask first. Assume good intentions. How you ask matters as well. The same principle above applies: ask about the behavior. I’m impressed with those who worry about the asker. If the ask seems a bit harsh, they wonder whether the asker might be struggling. That‘s a very thoughtful response.
There‘s a caveat on all this: if folks continue to promote something that‘s demonstrably wrong, after notification, they should get called out. Here in the US, the first amendment says we can say whatever, but it doesn‘t say we don‘t have any consequences from what we say. (You can‘t yell ‘fire‘ in a crowded theatre if there isn‘t one!) Similarly, if you continue to promote, say, a debunked personality test, you can be called out. ;)
So this is my first draft on sensitivities and sensibilities. Assume good intent. Ask first. Educate the individual and the market. Don‘t attack the person, but the behavior. I‘m sure I‘m missing situations, conditions, additional constraints, etc. Let me know.