Posted by Janet Kayfetz in Thoughts on July 14, 2015
Here is my response to a question from “Angie” about communication style in the workplace:
“How can I get my team to see me as a critical team member? I’m the youngest person in the office by several years and find it hard to get them to treat me as their equal.”
My thoughts are that no matter what your age, “being taken seriously” is a mutually negotiated subtlety of communication, a kind of contract between participants. Angie’s commitment would be to be an engaged and authentic listener; prepared and on time for meetings; respectful; making appropriate eye contact; and so on.
But Angie cannot control the attitudes and behaviors of colleagues, who should be equally respectful and engaged. In the ideal, all parties would listen, think, respond, and be open to all opinions, age notwithstanding
For all of us, a critical thing to remember is that others will form opinions about us based on many subconscious perceptions — perceptions that get filtered through the listener’s belief systems.
Details like what a speaker looks like, whether she has an “accent,” how she manages things like eye contact, turn-taking, interrupting, politeness signals in speech, volume, and so on. All of these communicative threads come together and have an impact on a listener/colleague.
So my advice for Angie is to master all of these communicative threads.
Study how you communicate at every level, and make changes that make you a more excellent communicator. How do you enter a room? How do you greet colleagues? How loudly/softly do you speak? How/when do you interrupt? How long are your responses to straightforward questions? Do you always piggy back on someone else’s response, making their response appear to be incomplete or incorrect? Are you paying attention or fiddling with your phone? Are you on topic when you add something to the discussion? What is your tone — are you respectful? sarcastic? humorous? critical? And so on.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful. Good luck Angie!