The Coach's Corner

What’s Limiting Healthy Communication in Many Businesses?

January 22nd, 2018 // Tom Doescher //
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Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Once again, I’m out of my area of professional expertise, but I would suggest the answer to the title question is “passive-aggressive behavior.” My partner, Barbara, will write more on this subject later, but I wanted to at least introduce it.

Based on reading 8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness, by Andrea Brandt, and my own experience and observations over the decades, I believe most of us could do better.

Here are my takeaways from Brandt’s book:

  1. Unlike extrovert/introvert, passive-aggressive is a learned behavior developed during our formative years. Brandt would say that if one parent is dominant and the other is subservient, children will almost inevitably develop some passive-aggressive tendencies.
  2. Unrealistic standards can cause a child, who becomes an adult, to develop passive-aggressive tendencies.
  3. Brandt would say that we don’t express our feelings because we leap to the conclusion that any difference of opinion will lead to a  quarrel, which in turn will threaten our relationships.
  4. She would also say that if you don’t ask for what you need, the odds of getting it are greatly reduced.
  5. The best thing we can do for our children is to raise them in an environment where it’s safe to express our feelings and speak the truth to each other.
  6. People with passive-aggressive behavior will say “yes” when they really mean “no.”
  7. According to Brandt, conflict — even if it’s occasionally uncomfortable — can help create good, enriching relationships. (Editorial comment: this is very counterintuitive.)
  8. Don’t assume the other person knows what you’re thinking and feeling.

Hopefully this list whets your appetite for reading Brandt’s book. It’s not an easy read, but I believe that for any leader or senior executive, it’s worth the effort.

Two closing comments:

  1. Since it’s a behavior learned as a child, many of us may not realize we have passive-aggressive leanings. I would encourage you to ask your mentor, supervisor, coach, spouse or someone who really cares for you what they think.
  2. In reading the book and self-diagnosing myself, I don’t believe I’m passive-aggressive. However, as I reflect on my interactions, I would say that, at times,  I’ve behaved in a passive-aggressive manner. This has generally resulted in confusion, miscommunication and bad results.

In my amateur opinion, dealing with this subject could be a game-changer for your team. I strongly encourage you to read this book in order to better understand the impact this very common situation may be having on your company.

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