Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Broken Phone Effect

I was totally upset with a colleague of mine, and to ease my heart, I ranted about them to my manager. Like that colleague just reminded me today, it is so hard to understand people like me who would just talk about problems without expecting a solution. And this rant was like that. I wasn't expecting an action. I just needed to talk.

Like so many times, I found that the metadata of what type of request was coming in from me did not go through. When my communication headers included the metadata asking for a sympathetic ear, and a mirror to bounce things off, they only received the default: When presented a problem, solution is in order.

The solution however was particularly good this time. They suggested that I'd go and talk to my colleague. I did. It felt overwhelming and difficult. But it was a start of many great conversations where we built trust on one another, now knowing that we could constructively talk about anything and everything.

So I distilled my lesson. When I had something I felt strong enough to rant to another person, perhaps taking the extra step and talking to them directly, not about what *they do* but about what *I feel*, was a path worth taking.

With this lesson in mind, I've asked many people to talk to me directly when I'm involved in how *they feel*. I believe they cannot tell me what to do, but they can help me understand how what I do makes them feel and I may choose to work on my behaviors, or at least help them understand how I make sense of the world. Remembering how hard those steps are, I appreciate that many people choose avoidance. I still choose avoidance in righteous anger when I feel neither my status nor the past agreements justify me taking the first step. The word "emotional labor" comes to mind. Bridging in disagreements requires that, and I'm tired of it being expected it is my duty to perform it for the others.

Over the years as I have been blogging, people have reached out to tell they've been through what I write about. While I write for myself, I also write for people like myself. People who aspire to change themselves, change the results they contribute, change the world in some small way. My stories are not factual representations of events, but they are personal intertwining of many experiences that allow me to shine light to a relevant experience.

When my manager calls me telling I should not say "Google me", I wish the person I offended would have had the guts to talk about this without the broken phone effect. I could have explained that I mean that you will find articles I've written, research I've done and that I did google your background enough to see that you are talking to someone who knows something of this stuff. Assume good intent. I rarely say things to insult.

If you have something to say, talk to me about it. If you don't but changed your ways for the better anyway, I'm fine with you being annoyed with me and avoiding me. Mutual loss, but we both have options.

A great option is to break the broken phone effect and just deal with your own stuff instead of sending a messenger. It might have a second order positive impact.

I tried, I failed, I succeeded. I learned. Can you say the same? FAIL is a first attempt in learning and takes a significant amount of courage.