Social behaviour – tread softly…

Tread softly

I have spread my dreams under your feet                                Tread softly because you tread on my dreams                                         

W.B. Yeats

This is one of my favourite quotations, not only because it is excellent advice, but also because it is a pertinent reminder of just how fragile people are.

There seems to be an increasing acceptance of basic rudeness throughout our daily lives – in social media, online forums and discussions, at work and at play.  But it’s worth remembering that, regardless of how logical they may seem on the surface, people are basically driven by emotion. Which makes it just too easy to shatter dreams, whether those of a client, an employee or a colleague or a friend. 

This can be particularly destructive in the workplace where even a simple dream – perhaps a desire to learn, do well, be appreciated, contribute, be promoted, or just take pride in ones work – can be broken by a careless remark or, worse, ongoing inconsiderate behaviour.

And a worrying amount of dream-crushing is due to thoughtless behaviour, and is therefore both unnecessary and cruel.  Worse still, an insensitive act may, at heart, have nothing to do with the particular individual whose dream is being trampled. In too many cases, it can be the pressure of work or problems at home or inherent selfishness which cause inappropriate behaviour and slights to colleagues and direct reports.

Some of the signs of lack of consideration and respect include:

  • not listening
  • not saying please or thank you
  • talking over people in meetings or during presentations
  • being late for meetings or calls
  • an ill-considered put-down
  • insulting or rude behaviour
  • knowing better but not explaining why
  • always being right – even when wrong
  • ignoring others’ views and opinions
  • not bothering to communicate

This behaviour is impolite at best, unkind at worst, and, when ongoing, is extremely likely to lead to resentment and frustration.

People like to be well-thought of by people they admire.  So teaching, explaining, supporting and listening is far more likely to lead not only to enthusiasm and motivation, but also to genuine respect.

When dealing with people, it can often be helpful to flip things round 180 degrees before speaking or taking action.  Just a brief hop into the recipient’s shoes to consider their likely reaction helps with choosing the right message and even the words.  Of course it’s essential to understand what drives the individual in question so that the shoes actually fit…

This is particularly true when reviewing employees.  It’s quite feasible that a dream or ambition may need to be channelled or tempered  if it’s unrealistic in relation to an individual’s skill set.  This sort of issue obviously needs very careful handling with the ultimate aim of re-setting expectations.

But given that pride is such a key component of many human beings, this may not always be possible.  In which case, a botched attempt may be destructive both to the employee, the director or manager’s relationship with the employee, and, ultimately, the business.

It’s always worth remembering Dale Carnegie’s accurate observation:  When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.

Whether you agree or disagree, or if you have a story to tell, just reply below and let’s start a conversation…

Victoria Tuffill – victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk   01787 277742 or  07967 148398.   Have a squint at  our website.  And yes, we’re on Linked In, and Twitter

2 thoughts on “Social behaviour – tread softly…

  1. Peter Slaughter

    Hi Victoria, I found your blog very interesting. I think the old adage if you have nothing good to say then say nothing is one worth remembering and I am sure you would agree.

    There is a group called Urban Sketchers on Flickr which I signed up for and often take time to look at the sketches posted by members of the group. I often click the like button and if I do I will try to say something about why I like a particular sketch. It may be the pencil work, the way a colour has been used, or something else. I would never dream of leaving a negative comment of any sketch that did not appeal to me. I could not see the point of doing this. These people have put their work on public display, who am I to be negative about it.

    Reply
    1. tuffillverner Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to have a look, Peter, and for your post. You’ve summed it up in that one sentence “if you have nothing good to say then say nothing.” I wrote this (which is a bit different from my other blogs and a bit of a rant, I fear) in reaction to the increasing number of increasingly unpleasant posts or put-downs I’ve seen across certain business social media channels recently – normally when people are trying to be seen to be ‘a bit clever’ professionally. There’s banter (or even mutual insanity!), but deliberately annihilating someone because you happen to disagree with what they say or how they say it seems to me both pointless and generally unhelpful.

      On a different subject, I’ll go and have a look at Urban Sketchers on Flickr – sounds interesting – thanks.

      Reply

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