You receive an email and the perceived tone makes you want to a) throw your laptop b) throw THEIR laptop or c) throw THEM out of the window. It could be anything from feedback on a bad day to an uninformed opinion, it doesn’t matter, you are RILED!
It’s highly likely that you will have not only experienced this but will also have given someone else that raging feeling, despite being certain you’ve never intended to. Perhaps the feedback given to you was actually completely constructive, and the sender assumed it would be heard as such. In a world of increasingly higher paced and often remote working, this is far from unusual – we don’t get to know each other’s ‘nuances’ as well as we would if we were working face to face and we don’t have enough time to learn how best to work together to enhance productivity. Or do we? Let’s face it, working is hard enough without enemies.
In a virtual world
Even speaking over the phone enables us to still (often unconsciously) respond to emotional cues through tone of voice and the natural form of conversation; our social brain is able to remain balanced and react appropriately to what we’re receiving. A high degree of emotional intelligence including self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skill, also enables us to read others, come across as we mean, and ensure needs are met for all involved in the best way possible.
Online communication, however, completely removes physical presence. It increases disinhibition, and removes a certain level of natural restraint when the primitive part of our brain reacts and the amygdala highjacks us, as opposed to the usual (more modern and reasonable) prefrontal areas employed by the brain in face to face interaction, and bashes out a reply in the heights of upset after an ill-received critique.
Recognising signs – am I the difficult one?
If you don’t know someone very well, even yourself, you’re more likely to have trouble identifying stress signals and gauging tone before the damage has been done. Some of us have little awareness of the impact we have on others, especially when stressed, and the underlying knowledge we employ in social interaction on a daily basis – length and nature of relationship and perceived authenticity for example – is necessary to feed our social brain to make informed assumptions about other individuals we hold relationships with. The less you know about someone, the more likely it is that your assumptions will be based on misread behaviour and your own perceptions and might be incorrect, elevating the level of miscommunication and forging inauthentic relationships and ineffective working.
Just above you can see the Yerkes/Dodson human performance curve. The word ‘stretch’ on the graph indicates the optimum level of pressure we can endure to obtain our performance potential before becoming unbalanced and under pressure and stress, where our performance quickly declines. We can map the Insights Discovery colour energies and the way they manifest in us individually against these segments, as noted in red. Do you identify with any of these tendencies?
In response to pressure, individuals with high levels of Cool Blue colour energy might initially withdraw, become quiet and ask for more detail. Early stress signals can include nit-picking, becoming resentful and appearing extremely questioning and deliberate.
Individuals who lead with Earth Green energy may become more indecisive and cling to the familiar when they start to feel under pressure, leading to appearing judgemental, withdrawn and impersonal when higher levels of stress take hold.
Sunshine Yellow energy under pressure take on even more tasks, have crazier ideas and appear more extroverted than usual. Early stress signals include rebellion and becoming highly opinionated, critical and argumentative.
Under pressure the fourth colour energy, Fiery Red, can manifest itself in individuals as perceived rudeness, inability to listen, a higher working pace and enhanced rigidity; further stress over a longer period can heighten these characteristics to impatience, higher irritability, aggression and high demands (on self as well as others).
Possible Weaknesses and Blind Spots
Your Insights Discovery Personal Profile is a mine of valuable information; the more familiar you are with it, the smarter you can be about leveraging yours and others’ behavioural diversity to fill in the gaps and reach enhanced effectiveness, alone or as part of a team.
The ‘Possible Weaknesses’ page in your profile can almost lift up a mirror to reveal a list of internal causes of stress, (ie. “Overly concerned with the opinions of others”, “May take criticism of her work personally”, and so on). Becoming more actively aware of our weaknesses and how they impact us can aid in the creation of a strategy surrounding them.
Our perception of ourselves can often be different to the perceptions others have of us, and we are not always aware of the effect our less conscious behaviours, or ‘blind spots’, have on others. Reviewing the ‘Blind Spots’ page is invaluable for discovering elements that might have gone forgotten, validating them through feedback from colleagues and friends, and identifying and pre-empting possible sources or triggers of future stress.
The often trickiest but most valuable exercise to proceed with using your Discovery profile is to physically use it, and these blog posts are designed to help you in doing so. Talk to people about your profile. Ask your colleagues, bosses and teams to read it and arrange times for them to give you feedback on it. Swap profiles with someone who’s behaviour you find challenging. Even the act of leaving it out on your desk rather than stuck in the bottom drawer means you’re more likely to be reminded of the impact your behaviour has on others, and that awareness and perception play huge roles in the communication game.