Here is a true story on human communication gone wrong at a major psychiatric and teaching hospital where I worked in Montreal, Canada. And years later the ripple effects of what happened were still remembered.
You see, the regular secretary was on vacation. The temporary secretary had eagerly rearranged the patient files to make them look neat. One of my colleagues, a psychologist, could not find the patient file he needed. All of a sudden we all heard the psychologist shouting and scolding the temporary secretary:
“I am telling you what to do. You are not here to think, you are here to do as I tell you!”
The secretary was in tears. The psychologist, with the power of his position, felt justified. Everyone witnessed this event with much discomfort.
Now, let’s fast forward a few years. Picture this. The blue-collar staff, e.g. electricians, cleaners, secretaries, security, and others had problems with the management of the same hospital. To intervene, I was invited to give a series of workshops. The situation was serious enough and the union had stepped in. The tension in the room was obvious before I even opened my mouth to say hello. So, instead of ignoring the tension in the air and pretending as if it did not exist, immediately I brought it up. Resentful and angry voices united and they shouted: “Dr. Aznavour the only reason we the workers agreed to come here today to listen to you, is because you always treated us with respect over the years. So in return, you earned our respect. Otherwise, no management from their comfortable and air-conditioned offices could order us here.” These workers also reminded me of the event years ago where the psychologist scolded the young temporary secretary. This psychologist damaged his image through the hospital with one single event.
When invited to moderate negotiations or troubleshooting in a company I see that team member who loses control when angry, come out defeated in the end. Understanding this has taught me a lot. Surely, you know people like this around you.
Years passed, and memories were not erased. The workers said to me: “we are not slaves and should not be treated like pieces of dirt!” These people were demanding to be treated respectfully. Rightfully so! And I was relieved to know that my good relations paid off years later. I felt energized and a love nest was created in that room that day. This helped me to succeed in the delivery of my workshops
In these videos, frequently I will remind us of the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. Do you want to be treated with respect? So treat everyone as a human being with respect no matter what their rank, education level, or power position. Besides the ethical fairness of the golden rule, creating win/win solutions in any situation is such a smart thing to do. You do not invite sabotage. So many managers and leaders do not understand this basic human principle. The ripple effect of shortsighted leadership causes headaches for all within an organization.
Prevention is easier than intervention. That is why I prefer to be invited by the business sector early on to prevent problems from mushrooming.
Notice that people lacking effective communication skills, usually have an inability or unwillingness to handle tense situations with diplomacy, assertive skills, and tact. Decreasing tension in situations and inviting fair debate is an art. Angry people and bullies go for the short-sighted ‘zero-sum game’. This invites sabotage from others in return.
Have a discussion using this video on effective communication skills with your colleagues, friends, and family members. In the exchange of ideas, you might learn a thing or two.
Dr. Louise Aznavour
Psychologist = Solution Oriented Coaching =
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