There are untold levels of interpretation and perspective that shape our meaning, interactions and experiences. Making sense of these levels is the challenge. Understanding the dimensions that are at work, why they exist, and the nuances they bring to what is being said, how it is being said and what remains unsaid is fundamental. The good news is that there is structure at play that can help to uncover undercurrents, build meaning and provide perspective. The secret lies in knowing where to look.
We are cognitively lazy. We don’t pay attention to the details unless something triggers us to. That’s not a fault; it’s efficient engineering of our brains to manage energy and attention. We cruise on autopilot until something is important enough to focus our attention. This doesn’t just influence how we experience our cognitive biases in seeing the world, though. It also profoundly shapes how we experience and interact with those around us. And how we should interact when things really matter.
One of the most interesting things we do in organizations is render topics and truth undiscussable. Through an intersection of power and our own complicity, we allow for a rearranging of the facts to align with someone else’s preferences. That can have consequences for us, for our careers, and for our ability to simply have a coherent and objective conversation. As prevalent as the elephants in the room might be, though, there are some relatively straightforward strategies to both name them, and invite them to leave.
Email is without question our most popular—and most misused—means of communicating in the workplace. While success depends upon interacting well with the broad, complicated and all-too-intricate tapestry of humanity, we like to pretend that writing and text is as short-cut to doing so efficiently. Whereas every time we get it wrong and course correct (and that’s usually pretty often) we discover we’ve actually taken the long-and-by-no-means scenic route.
How should I build my skills? What should I focus on? What are the things I should avoid doing to be successful? Those are easy questions to ask, but astonishingly difficult to answer. Especially without context, background or any detailed understanding of who you are responding to. But they were questions that showed up in my inbox last week. So I took a stab at answering them anyway.
I write. A lot. I work as a management consultant, but it could be argued instead that I’m a professional writer. My work products are reports, documents, presentations and emails. Over the course of my career, though, how I write—and what I focus on and value—has evolved. A great deal.