Have you ever solved a problem for someone and instead of saying “thanks” the other person reacts with hurt feelings, leaving you baffled as to why they told you the problem in the first place?
One of my clients just had this experience. One of Cheryl’s team members, Lisa, is a dynamo who readily takes on projects delegated to her, and completes them efficiently and with great quality. Last week Lisa approached Cheryl with a detailed list of all the things on her plate, talked about how hard she was working, and that she was worried about things falling through the cracks.
Cheryl is always quick to take action, and in a day or two she had rearranged things and reassigned some of Lisa’s projects to other team members in order to lighten the load for Lisa. Expecting that what she had done would mitigate Lisa’s concerns, she was baffled when Lisa reacted with hurt feelings.
Lisa’s wanted to know why Cheryl didn’t trust her, and what she had done to disappoint Cheryl to the point that Cheryl would let other people work on Lisa’s projects. What Cheryl thought was help backfired and now Lisa was upset.
It’s a tale of two different Perceptual Styles thinking they are communicating and missing the mark. Cheryl is Vision. She naturally responds quickly to problems to provide resolution. What she had heard was that Lisa had too much to do and was worried about everything getting done, so she took steps right away to juggle some things around and lighten the load on Lisa.
Lisa is Methods. The disconnect was that she wasn’t asking for a fix. She was merely looking for acknowledgment of how well she was doing and assurance that Cheryl was pleased with all of the work.
People with the Vision Perceptual Style are quick problem solvers, draw quick conclusions from limited data, and literally cannot absorb excessive detail. They aren’t married to a single way of doing things; they adjust as they go, making decisions about what action to take based on the circumstances.
On the other hand, people with the Methods Perceptual Style have an incredible ability to organize and routinize multiple tasks into a series of repeatable steps. They often present information objectively and impersonally and highlight the glitches in their routine that still need work. When this happens, what they intend as a detailed list of accomplishments and a well laid out plan to get everything done can be heard as a series of problems they want solved.
Vision folks hear a plea for assistance when Methods folks are just thinking through the details out loud and gaining validation for their approach.
With Cheryl and Lisa, it was a matter of sharing the different perspectives with them. The tip for Lisa was to not just present detailed facts but also provide some context to Cheryl about why she was sharing those facts. Setting context is as easy as saying thing like “I want to update you on the status of all the projects I’m working on.” or “I’m doing a lot of things, and I want to let you know about them so we can decide together what needs to be done next and set priorities.”, or if there is a problem “I have a problem that I need help from you on.”
Setting context let’s Cheryl know what the purpose of the conversation is so she doesn’t jump into to problem solving mode. The tip for Cheryl was to re-state what she heard and enlist Lisa’s buy-in before taking action. For example, “Great update – are you looking for some suggestions or are you feeling ok about where things are?”
What comes out of our mouths and what we hear are rarely the complete message. Often taking the time to set expectations or clarifying what you think you heard is all that is necessary to avoid this type of disconnect.
Ever had this type of disconnect? Share your experience in the comment section below.
Understanding Perceptual Style is a great tool in understanding the root cause of differences. To find out more about your style and how it interacts best with other styles go to www.YourTalentAdvantage.com