It’s fascinating how much one can learn about people and the culture of their organisations by listening to the conversations they hold.

There’s the manager who has been around for a while, knows his job and can see a mistake at ten paces. His conversations are short, sharp and one way. Don’t look to him for encouragement or positive feedback. He will tell you what has gone wrong, and exactly what he wants you to do to fix it. All he requires in return is your nod of understanding and commitment. He and his organisation pridethemselves on their action orientation. Understanding? Commitment? They don’t realize how little they have of either.

The person who knows better always has to have the last word. He, or she, seldom listens to what others have to say for any longer than it takes to form an interruption. Their view of the world is bounded by their own knowledge and experience and their intolerance of different views. Those who differ, quickly learn to say little and to keep their views to themselves. If you are in Generation X or Y it’s unlikely that you will enjoy your conversations with people like this or feel that you have much chance for personal growth in their organisations.

There are many people who cannot distinguish the facts of a situation from their own opinions and argue equally strongly and emotionally for both. It’s great to have them on your side when an emotional appeal will carry the day, but don’t go to them for rational argument and consideration of alternatives.

Then there are the folk who simply talk…and talk…and talk. They wouldn’t dream of using ten words when a hundred would do. You spend conversations with them wondering what the point is and wishing they would get to it. It’s hard to interrupt them and when you do get a word in edgeways, you are left with a strong sense that they are not listening to you anyway. They are interested only in what they themselves have to say and don’t realize how unapproachable they can become. In the long run the only views and ideas they are aware of are their own.

None of the behaviours described above do much for development of open communication, good relationships or cohesive cultures. Unfortunately, the same behaviours make it very difficult for these people to receive feedback from others, so they tend to be unaware of the impact of their behaviour and are usually resistant to changing it.

If you decide to confront them you need to have very well developed skills in making conversations safe and talking straight. Good luck to you!

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