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What’s So Funny ‘Bout Tweets, Posts, and Understanding?

Posted by Mark Bennett on April 26, 2010

So where are the strong, and who are the trusted?

How much has your experience with social media like blogs and networks helped you understand things better? I’m not saying you had to agree with someone else, just that you had a better idea where they were coming from. Didn’t that help you have a more complete picture of the overall situation? Didn’t that improve your thinking and as a result, your ability to get things done or come up with a better solution?

Just as how your experience with networks outside of work can help you understand more about others, so too can your experience with your network at work help you understand more about what other folks in your company are doing, what they are up against, their frustrations, as well as their vision. Again, you don’t have to agree with them; it’s about understanding them more so that you can be better in your thinking, consider more perspectives, etc.

So how to foster that understanding? The challenge is that this understanding requires looking at your connections as more than just nodes on a network; you also must factor in their humanity.

If it’s about humans, it’s about relationships

What makes it hard and keeps a lot of folks unwilling to factor in the other person’s humanity, particularly in business, is that humans are complex. Roles, expertise, functions, etc. are not nearly as complicated. Most of the complication people try to avoid is around that most human of attributes: emotions. Sometimes, as Jason Seiden just pointed out, you don’t even know what emotion you are observing in the other person. Are they mad? Frustrated? Distracted? Then, you don’t know what the context of the emotion is. Are they mad at me? Someone else? Are they frustrated about some larger issue they see? What does it mean?

So unsurprisingly, a lot of people just give up and say, “You know what, I’m just going to do my job, get the info I need, tell folks what I think needs to be done, and that’s it.” Just get in, get what you need, and get out seems the simplest approach and least likely to cause problems. Here’s the catch – using that approach with your social network can just as easily cause the problems you’re trying to avoid. People aren’t dumb and they will see what you are doing and they wouldn’t be out of line to at least resent that you are using a social medium to basically use or manipulate people.

Besides, you are also missing out on getting a better understanding of the people in your network, where they are coming from, and how they see things are. Which means: you’re also missing the bigger picture.

Core Concerns, not Kumbaya

What if you had a way to still acknowledge emotions and what if that also helped you get a better understanding of the people in your network and as a result, get you what you wanted? I’m going to pull in some advice that’s primarily directed to negotiators, but also applies to relationships*, both personal as well as business, and will serve you well in your social network at work.

This advice comes from Roger Fisher, of “Getting to Yes” fame, and his colleague Daniel Shapiro, from their book, “Beyond Reason.” They suggest that rather than trying to stop having emotions, ignoring them, or attempting to decipher them directly, instead try to address what boils down to the Five Core Concerns that give rise to many of the emotions we see. This way, we can still acknowledge the impact of emotions (and maybe even benefit from them – think excitement, hope, etc.) and enrich our relationships as well as our understanding.

Here are the Five Core Concerns to consider, and by doing so, will help your relationships in your networks, both inside and outside of work. In turn, you’ll get better understanding:

  1. Appreciation: Really find merit in the other person’s thinking and then show it. They will see that and that will raise your credibility with them immensely. Guess what? You might come away with better understanding by looking at things their way for a minute.
  2. Affiliation: Find common ground or interests that you can be colleagues on, rather than adversaries. This is about finding where you both agree so that you can get motivated to help each other in that area at least, which promotes more understanding.
  3. Autonomy:  Recognize and respect that the other person doesn’t have to do what you say or agree with you. Applying pressure to change that will backfire at least in the long run. Besides, if they can’t express their opinions or say what they would do if they could, etc. you miss out on the bigger picture.
  4. Status: Show each person, that while perhaps not having as much “prestige” as everyone else, or as grand a title, they are nevertheless important in their own right. They have a particular expertise, some knowledge, function, thinking, or opinion that is unique and valuable. Understanding this in order to communicate it to your network gives you (and them) a better understanding of the bigger picture.
  5. Role: In addition to the above, make sure people in your network know how what they are doing matters to you and what you’re trying to do. Figuring this out gives you (and your network) a better overall understanding.

*Think about it, unless a negotiation is very, very quick and you’ll never deal with that person (or people they know) ever again, then it really *is* about relationships.

Photo by volume12

6 Responses to “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Tweets, Posts, and Understanding?”

  1. Meg Bear said

    How true Mark. I know so many people who try to rationalize away the importance of humanity, but I’ve never seen anyone who has convinced me they were more effective as a result of that approach.


    • I agree! It’s an easy trap to fall into – I’ve done it myself in the past. Now I find that acknowledging humanity (authentically) is actually the more rational course! 😉


  2. Amy Wilson said

    Great post Mark. And just to give you an idea of where I’m at … this makes me want to curl up in a blanket and smile. 🙂

  3. […] believe that recognizing the humanity and the potential of our workforce is a worthwhile purpose and I believe companies who get this […]

  4. […] workers are curious as well and have found connections and collaboration excellent ways to find out more about their company and its business […]

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