Employing Differences

Employing Differences, Episode 38: How do we stop annoying each other?

February 02, 2021 Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 38: How do we stop annoying each other?
Chapters
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 38: How do we stop annoying each other?
Feb 02, 2021
Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis

"Really good feedback arrives as complaints fairly often – and how we receive it is what makes the difference."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

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Show Notes Transcript

"Really good feedback arrives as complaints fairly often – and how we receive it is what makes the difference."

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Karen:

Welcome to Employing Differences, a conversation exploring the collaborative space between individuals.

Paul:

I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

And I'm Karen Gimnig.

Paul:

Each episode we start with a question and we see where it takes us. This week's question is, "How do we stop annoying each other?"

Karen:

And a bit of a spoiler alert: Yeah, we probably won't entirely stop annoying each other. So perhaps a better question is, "How can we annoy each other usefully? How can we productively engage when we're annoying each other?"

Paul:

I think one of the places to start with that is thinking about when we talk about annoying each other, what do we really mean? One of the very natural things that happens when we work with people who aren't ourselves is that they are they're different than us in some way. They do things differently. They think about things differently. They have different experiences, different perspectives. Different things, bring them joy, different things cause them to get angry. And so we do things that makes sense to us, in our frame of reference, and we think about unconsciously what our response to those would be. And then sometimes we get really surprised when the other person has a different response. And that's always going to happen, which is why we're never going to stop annoying each other. We're always going to do things in a different way than the other person does. And how can we take advantage of that? How can we annoying each other useful, because that's where the power of collaboration really comes in.

Karen:

And among the differences are: how we express annoyance, how we describe annoyance, and how we respond when someone shares their annoyance with us. So we're talking about annoyances, but we're also really talking about feedback. If you're gonna engage with things that are annoying, hopefully, if you're hanging out with someone, they are not deliberately being annoying. Which means it's fairly likely that the thing that they're doing that is annoying to you, they don't know is annoying you. Because they've worked with people who are different than you who weren't annoyed by it. Or they've just gotten used to doing it, and it's an unconscious habit. Or there's any number of variations of that. But the beginning piece is they're very unlikely to change if they have no idea there's a reason that they should.

Paul:

I have probably shared this story before I'm very open about it but one of the pieces of feedback that I got once in my career was someone who said to me, "Paul, sometimes your curiosity sounds like judgment." And so what it meant was that I was asking questions of this group that I was working with, to try and help them figure out what they wanted to do differently. And it sounded to them like I was judging them. And that was really annoying might be a mild term. But what was fascinating was that I assumed that everything was great, because I wasn't getting any feedback about how we were working together. And this is one of the things Karen and I have discussed the differences between the two of us I assume, if you don't tell me that I'm doing something, that's a problem, then I must be great. Everything's perfect. We're all good. Not really, but that is one of those set points that I kind of operate at. And so I worked with this group for a long time before one person finally said this thing, about how your curiosity sounds like judgment. And as soon as I got that feedback, I went, "Oh." And I had to kind of reevaluate how I was engaging with that group. But it was one of those things that until it was pointed out to me, I was gonna keep doing what I was doing.

Karen:

I think that's a great example of how the thing that is really, really great about you is also the thing that's really, really annoying about you. That that same sort of questioning capacity is both the expression of your curiosity and an expression of judgment. I think the thing that sometimes happens is if you're me so my response to getting no feedback at all, which is different than Paul's, is to wonder what I'm doing that you're not telling me. Because I sort of start with I think I've pretty decent self-esteem, but I definitely start with I'm not perfect, I'm probably doing something there's probably a way in which I'm not this ideal, perfect person. And if you're not telling me what it is then I don't know how annoyed you are or not or how much impact it's having on you, and I don't know when it's gonna come back and bite me. I don't know when it's gonna explode at me. And so if I start to get a vibe, like if I was in to use Paul's example, if I was in that situation, and I was just sort of getting a vibe of there's something not right here, I might completely cut off my curiosity with my judgment. So the two, the good and the bad, that that are actually different frames or different manifestations of the same basic quality. If you don't have good feedback to sort of work through it, you can just "Okay, I've known before people called me judgmental, and maybe that's what's going on here, so I'm just going to stop the behavior altogether." And then the group loses that fabulous capacity for curiosity, because you didn't learn how to modulate it or to work with it.

Paul:

It's one of the things that I use a lot in my work, the idea that our weaknesses are usually our strengths misapplied. Where we we do something that we are very good at, and that we're very natural at, and we're very practiced at, and we use it in a situation or in a way, where that's not the useful thing, or that's not the appropriate thing, and it lands wrong. And so recognizing and we talked about how we're always going to annoy each other, it's because we're going to be doing the things that we're good at. We're going to be doing the things that are useful, that are natural, and that are valuable to the partnership, that are valuable to the team. And if we were to stop doing them, if we were to stop annoying the other person, we would not be showing up with the things that would be useful. So that's what you're really talking about is cutting off your own strength because of concern about how it might be annoying. I love how that all kind of fits together, because it's a recognition that, yeah the reality is that in any relationship, any partnership, in any group, we're always gonna be doing something that's pushing somebody else's buttons, and that's not actually a sign we're doing it wrong. But I think there are more and less skillful ways of doing it.

Karen:

And the feedback loops that we're talking about, the ability to give feedback to respond to that feedback to work through it likely, if you're giving me feedback, it lands for me in "oops." And frankly, at my age, probably, I've heard that feedback before. "Dang it, I'm in the same darn trap. Okay, let me dig myself out of this one." And then maybe check in for more feedback and so on. But I think another piece that's just as valuable is if you're giving me feedback, and I'm like, "Wow, I'm so surprised that that bothers you." And you become aware through the back and forth of just an authentic exchange, not a judgment, not a blame, not a who's wrong, but just a, "This is what I'm experiencing." "Huh? Wow, well, this is what I'm experiencing, and this is why that thing matters to me" or "I actually have a value around this thing that I think is useful." And maybe the person giving the feedback goes, "Huh. I guess there's something in me that is getting annoyed that you know what, I don't have to be annoyed like, I can let that go. Because it's my thing, actually, that is what's coming up here."

Paul:

Yeah. Oh, and it really is one of those things that lives in the space between. It's in the interaction between the two people, between the group of people that that actually comes from. It's one of the things that I talk about with conflict. Xonflict is a property of the group, of the system. Conflict doesn't exist with only one person. It exists in the space between. And so how can we recognize that? It does not exist fully within us. It exists around us. We have to engage with each other around it. I do think that one of the things that's valuable to do, in you talked about how waiting for it to blow up, right? You're like, "Oh, no, at some point, it's gonna go." And that's often what happens because giving feedback is hard. Even when we're practiced at it. You've got to get over a certain hump, an energetic sort of level in order to be able to give it. And so actually being able to give each other feedback about things that annoy each other when the stakes are low. When things are going well is actually one of the best times to talk about the little things. Because again, it allows you to practice receiving that gracefully, getting curious about what's going on between. If you wait until the point where the pot is boiling, and then throw it in there, you're probably not as capable of working with it if you haven't already built the muscle. One of the valuable things to be able to do is to complain about stuff before it becomes a big deal to figure out how you're going to work with it.

Karen:

I think that even the languaging that we use around it has already judgment in it. You know, complaining is bad, but feedback is good. You know what, it's the same thing. And calling it feedback and lacing it with judgment doesn't work and calling it complaining when it really has no judgement in it also doesn't work. I think language matters, but I also think we kind of got to get past the attachment of frankly, really good feedback arrives as complaints fairly often. And how we receive it is what makes the difference.

Paul:

I actually try to teach people in some of the work that I do I joke about complaining well. The idea that behind every complaint is a disappointed dream. You wanted it to be a certain way, and it wasn't that way. That's valuable information. Being able to go, "I'm annoyed by this. What is it that annoys me?" Oh, it's not that this person does this thing that annoys me. It's that I had a vision of how this was going to be. This was going to be smooth or easy, and it's not that way right now. Let's talk about the difference between what it is like for me right now, and how I wanted it to be. And if we can come to that conversation, not from a place of, "I'm going to complain at you" or "I want to give you feedback," but really come to it from a place of "I want to explore this gap. I want to explore that together to figure out what we might do about it. Because I'm curious whether or not you're experiencing a similar gap? How do we want to deal with it together?" That's where I think those conversations can be extremely productive.

Karen:

And I want to bring the word need in here, too. Because it's not just a dream. It's not just a wish, it often is an actual need. And we see that in extreme cases, you know, somebody has PTSD, you don't slam things around the office around them and we learn that. So when somebody has something diagnoseable, or something really clear that that they can point to. But the reality is an awful lot of our needs are not nearly that recognized or that easily described, but that doesn't make them less real. And so like I can have a need for quiet that's just because I'm a person who really needs quiet which I'm not, by the way, but that could be a thing. Whatever it is, that being able to say, "Wow, that that noise really impacts me in a way that I suspect it doesn't impact other people. But man, it sure would help me..." Whatever the thing is because we show up this whole people with needs that are different, with habits that are different, with responses that are different, with stories in our heads that are different. And some of those we work out through conversation and realize, "Oh, I'm annoyed because the story I tell myself is that you leaving your dishes out in the kitchen is because you don't care about me." And it turns out that you leaving your dishes in the kitchen is because you were racing off to go get to an appointment or something. So I can reframe the story I tell myself about the dishes in the kitchen. Or you can reframe the story you're telling yourself as you leave the dishes from "This is no big deal," to "Ooh, this is really a trigger point for the person I'm sharing this kitchen with." But it's that space between and really entering it and having the conversation that reveals all of that.

Paul:

The piece where where we recognize each of us are telling ourselves a story about what what this means. But if we don't share those stories with each other, it's hard to bridge the gap.

Karen:

Yeah, and the only way the stories get shared is someone has the courage to start the conversation, either by complaining or by giving feedback, whichever the case may be. But agreeing completely that when it's small is the best time. When it's real is always a good time. And that giving the feedback is not doing a bad or ugly thing to them or even a selfish thing that in fact, it is a gift to receive feedback.

Paul:

It is. Well, I think that's gonna do it for us for today. So until next time, I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

And I'm Karen Gimnig, and this has been Employing Differences.