Taking it on Yourself

There are definitely times when someone in your life – a coworker, maybe, or even a family member – just ticks you off. And for reasons that are entirely on them. Maybe they’re just not listening to you, or maybe they’re willfully ignoring you, or whatever. It’d be easy for the situation to escalate, or go entirely un-addressed. But there’s a better way.

Be the Master’s Nine Rules for Life™ stresses the need to communicate well at all times. Sometimes, that communication isn’t as straightforward as you might wish.

Take a recent incident with a colleague. She’d been communicating some specific needs to the leader of another team. That leader would sit on it for a couple of days, and then invariably come back and ask questions that had been clearly answered in the original communication! A frustrating situation, to be sure. When we talked, her initial plan was to simply ignore the problem and forge ahead, because she didn’t see a way to address it without it being confrontational. Not addressing a problem is never the right idea, though.

I suggested this: go to the other team leader either in person or on a video call (email sucks for this kind of thing), and say, “look, I want to make everyone’s job easier, if I can. I noticed that you’re hitting me up with questions that I thought I’d already answered. I’m obviously not communicating as well as I thought I was, so can you maybe give me some tips to do better?”

You’re doing two things here. First, and most obviously, you’re taking the problem on yourself. That wipes out the potential confrontational aspect, and makes it a lot easier just to solve the problem. I did this once in a past life, and the other person took me aside and said, “I’ll be honest with you – I’m a bit dyslexic. Reading anything for me is a challenge. I’d honestly rather get a voicemail for this stuff.” I was completely taken aback, but really glad I hadn’t gone in with full-bore blame mode. Instead, we solved the problem and moved on.

The other thing you’re doing is leaving open the possibility that you’re actually somewhat at fault! Because you might be. Take another time I wound up having a similar conversation. The answer back to me was, “look, you’re right, I haven’t really been reading your stuff. We’ve been swamped, and your emails are like 4 pages long.” Which was true; I write a lot. Sometimes too much, I’ve learned. “Can you just do like a bullet list of what you need, and I’ll get on it faster?” So we were both a little… not “at fault,” but certainly not meshing well as coworkers.

It’s okay to be humble, and it’s okay to be willing to take the blame. Sometimes, you’ll find that nobody has to take any blame, and the problem gets solved.

About the Author

Don Jones is a well-known technology speaker, author, and practitioner, with dozens of books, years of magazine articles, and hundreds of lectures under his belt. He's also a business leader, and authors books on business, learning, and instructional design at Leanpub.com/u/donjones. "Be the Master," the third edition of Don's book on achieving success and helping others, has been changing the lives of people all over the world.