Let’s kick off with a random fact: Did you know that I studied Online Persuasion for my M.A.? It’s true! I spent 3 years studying the power of persuasion, dialogue, and communication as it relates to online relationships and interactions. Back then it was a subset of interpersonal communication but I like to think I was smart for convincing them to let me get an M.A. for spending years of my life online.
I even did a thesis on the way women communicate in the workplace online. How do we help each other? How do we hurt each other? Specifically I did a Bakhtinian Analysis of a Predominately Female Workplace…which is a fancy way of saying – I studied the way we dialog online. It was a fascinating three years. I almost convinced myself to spend my life in academia, applying to PhD programs and everything. But then…I got my first job at a start up. Fast forward a decade and you know what I do with my day?
I spend it trying to communicate more effectively with people online. Full circle friends. Full circle.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot about communication in the workplace. I’ve seen some really successful relationships, and some really sad-looking ones. I’ve sat in on some meetings that left me feeling like I’ve changed the world, and I’ve left rooms where I am wondering, “what the hell just happen to the last 60 minutes of my life?” While I could go on and on about the many little things I’ve learned to help facilitate successful communication…one thing really stands out – objectivity.
I know what you’re thinking — isn’t that the same as “not standing for something?” Uhm no. Def of Objectivity: “judgment based on observable phenomena and uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices.” It might seem strange seeing me preach objectivity, since so many of my posts are about passion, but trust me when I say that objectivity in business is gold, pure gold.
Lately at work, we’ve been brainstorming some messaging. It’s been exhausting, as the 11 of us marketers try to get in a room and tackle this challenge. So many different approaches, and different backgrounds, and different ideas. Back and forth, and round and round we go. Many teams would have thrown in the towel long ago. You know what has kept us going? Objectivity. It’s a powerful tool. No idea is one person’s idea. No direction is one person’s direction. That is a recipe for disaster, yet it happens time and time again.
Dare I say…it’s the easy way out? If you stand by something simply because you have always stood by it…I believe that is the easy way out. You must be willing to be talked out of your stance. You must be willing to meet your colleague in the middle with the understanding you may, in the end, crossover.
In business you see this time and time again — with landing pages, with company logos, with product ideas, with company futures. It is hard, when you are so passionate about succeeding, to acknowledge your way may not be the best… but it may not. I have literally spent weeks pushing for something, only to finally realize, it’s not the best. I’ve spent months working on a funnel to find out it doesn’t improve our conversion rates. Hell, I spent two years on an idea that I swore would succeed, only to have the company fail. You must remain objective or you will lose yourself in the passion and never get anywhere better. You know what I mean?
Here is a test for you – if someone you know is falling prey to self-interest simply ask them why they love the idea so much. If they say “The idea is good because I believe…” then its about them. If they say “I believe the idea is good because…” then they are trying to stay objective. The conversation at work should always be about the idea, not about the person behind the idea. That was a tough one for me to learn, but a valuable one.
Too many people mistake objectivity with indifference… lack of compassion, lack of empathy, or lack of interest. It is, in my experience, none of those things. In fact, it is usually with a less partial view that one can most successfully steer their passion. When you stay objective you more often arrive at the ideal solution.
These are just my experiences though, and I’m still learning of course. Then again, I did spend three years in a library studying this stuff…and a decade screwing it up, so that has to count for something.
P.s. next time we are at a conference and having a few cocktails ask me my thoughts on Mikhail Bakhtin‘s dialogical theory…I’ve got some great rambles for you.