Communications coach Julian Treasure, author of the book “Sound Business,” believes all of us share a set of common emotional drivers. He calls them the “four leeches” because they “suck the power out of communication.”
“Most people — me included! — have most, or all, of them in some form,” Treasure writes in a recent post for the TED Idea blog. “I’m not suggesting they’re bad, wrong or to be condemned outright; the trick is to be conscious of them and not let them run the show.”
Here’s a Digest of Treasure’s "Four Leeches" and how they might Dull Business Communication Skills:
- Looking Good
We all like to look good, a basic human desire that often complicates business interactions. We may be so eager to show our knowledge during a meeting that we fail to listen to others’ comments as we plan our own commentary in our heads. And when we have our chance to talk, sometimes we can’t resist the urge to one-up the previous speaker. “You completed that report in two hours? I’m surprised. Only took me one.”
- Being Right
We’re all eager to earn respect for our talents and accomplishments. So, to showcase ourselves in a dazzling light sometimes we say things that cast shadows on others. This urge plays out most often as interrupting other speakers during meetings. Not only can cutting off colleagues leave them feeling belittled, offended and sometimes angry, but when dominating a business conversation we risk missing the observations of others.
- People Pleasing
In his TED post, Treasure describes this drive this way: “People pleasers might say yes when they mean no… They may concur with opinions that they fundamentally disagree with in order to be liked. While we all have this desire to have other people like us, it’s a question of degree.” By muddling intent, our desire to please others can obscure answers to important questions and stall solutions to nagging problems.
Related to People Pleasing, Fixing most often manifests in business situations when a well-meaning executive, manager, team leader or anyone with the authority to facilitate the flow of information withholds unwelcome news. Their concern is the news will disrupt the mood of the organization and drain productivity. But to fix a problem before it occurs, communicators inadvertently spread or deepen the negative impact of the news.
Why Treasure’s “Four Leeches” Hinder Collaborative Communication in Online Meetings
What Treasure calls “leeches” interfere with collaborative communications because they tend to turn our focus inward. We may become more concerned with what we want to say in a meeting than what team members need to tell us. Concentrating on being liked, being right, pleasing others and fixing negative consequences before they emerge distracts us from the tasks and duties we meet to manage in the first place. In a true sense, succumbing to Treasure’s leeches is the opposite of collaboration.
“Allowing negative thoughts and feelings to take over can undermine your confidence and result in a poor delivery,” communication coach Stephanie Scotti advises in a SmartBrief post. “One strategy for avoiding that problem is becoming emotionally agile.”
Emotional Agility is a concept introduced in a book of the same name by Susan David, Ph.D. In concise terms, being emotionally agile means “being flexible with your thoughts and feelings so you can respond optimally to everyday situations.”
Scotti believes emotional agility enables communicators to “Step Out” – i.e., “separate the thinker from the thought and the feeler from the feeling.” Stepping out, she says, is important to collaborating with colleagues because “Your thoughts and ideas will resonate with your listeners when you allow yourself to see the topic from their perspective and deliver it in a way that is meaningful to them.”
We believe the ability to flip perspective with team members is critical as today’s increasingly global, mobile workforce is redefining the meaning of “face-to-face” meetings. In a metaphorical sense, the distance between colleagues is widening. When participants in a meeting are not in the same room, building, city or even country, keeping our teammates’ varying points of view in mind is crucial for collaborative communicators.
3 Ways Moderating Tools Can Help Collaborative Communicators Starve the “Four Leeches”
Considering insights from Treasure and Scotti, we suggest three ways our moderating tools can help online meeting leaders manage their four leeches:
1. Record your practice sessions
The powerful urges to look good and be right may tempt us to skip practicing our presentations because, well, many of our colleagues don’t rehearse and it seems to work for them. Scotti calls this the “social contagion” effect. “The fact is, walking someone else’s walk won’t help you make an impact,” she warns. Recording and reviewing your presentations allows you to see and hear yourself as colleagues will.
2. Poll participants early in presentations
Feed your impulses to be right and please people with facts. With polling, the thoughts and ideas of others won’t be as mysterious to you and, therefore, less likely to spur anxiety.
3. Incorporate video conferencing into online meetings
Scotti advocates being your “full and authentic self” when leading meetings online or otherwise. Speaking plainly, dealing with video makes us more self-conscious in everyday business circumstances like meetings. Per Treasure, that’s a good thing for any collaborative communicator.
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