Let me introduce you to a new concept called Conversational Discord. Conversational Discord is when people have an argument or a misunderstanding that leads to greater difficulty within an organization. There are four stages to Conversational Discord:
1. Misinterpretation- misinterpretation is when somebody is either not listening or emotionally reacting which leads to a lack of understanding or misinterpretation of the message or the person.
2. Labeling - Labeling is when the experience lends itself to a depiction that is factually untrue or unfounded.
3. Unprofessional Sharing- When stages one and two are achieved often people will share their opinions of the experience as well as their misinterpretation by labeling and sharing with other people who are not involved in the conversation.
4. Spin and Share- People who receive the unprofessional sharing will often put their own spin on what happened and continue the sharing process.
Here is a brief example of how Conversational Discord works. Recently I was in a meeting with a person who started to ramble during a staff meeting. She kept repeating herself and you could see other people and the virtual meeting becoming less and less patient. After the meeting I received a phone call from one of the participants who immediately told me she was frustrated and then preceded to use her misinterpretation that lead to labeling. The person said “all she cares about is what comes out of her mouth and she doesn't care what comes out of anybody else’s mouth and she just wants to hear herself talk”. I think we've all heard people make statements like this yet is that factually what really occurred? About an hour after this person called me another person called me sharing the same thing and also shared that they had had a conversation with the person who had just called me. The unprofessional sharing was well underway. The person who was rambling in the meeting two days later had an incident with a coworker who was not in the meeting who said “I heard you had a tough meeting the other day and people were really angry that you tried to take over the meeting”. That is not even close to what factually occurred.
I told the director of the department I would talk to her and see what was causing this. After several good coaching questions I quickly found out this person struggles with insecurity as it relates to her ability to communicate a clear and concise message. She literally shared with me from her past work people became extremely frustrated with her because she often came off ambiguous and nebulous which is the reason that she tends to over communicate. After talking to her for 15 to 20 minutes after finding this out I quickly realized not only does she care about other people and their views she wants to hear their other views. So, within two days someone outside the meeting had literally shared with her directly they had the impression that she took over a meeting and dominated which prompted people in the meeting to be angry. The people in the meeting were not angry they were frustrated and to be candid were frustrated on unfounded assumptions.
Often, we talk about workplace cultures and engagement and we have to realize cultures are made up of conversations that occur every single day. Our ability to be clear in terms of our understanding