I used to be masterful at the cutting remark, the quick quip to get a laugh. I used to be proud of it. It was part of my defense system throughout my working life in kitchens, bars, and then in the construction industry. I thought I had to be tough to survive. It is a part of Australian culture – the piss taking and banter that happens in our friendships & workplaces. And it is really uncool This kind of behaviour, seeking significance at the expense of another, slowly erodes relationships, teams, and communities.
In every relationship exchange you are either a significance GIVER, or a significance GETTER.
A significance GETTER wants to be the most important at all costs. It’s the woman in the office who always has a biting remark for her colleagues. It’s the person you know who shares gossip with you about the lives of those around them, and makes sure you know their shortcomings. It’s the guy who makes everyone laugh, but the laughs are at someone else’s expense. Or they distract from the purpose. And it is the successful person who has climbed the ladder on the backs of those around them.
A significance GETTER completely ignores your own success, or plays the game of one-upmanship. “You think that’s good, that’s nothing! Last week I [blah blah blah]”. The conversation always comes back to them. They’re the bully, the clown, the show pony. They are on Facebook and social media, perpetuating drama, ranting, and vague-booking to fill their perpetual need for attention.
So what are the shifts in thoughts and behaviour to move from Getter to Giver?
It’s super simple: start focusing on other people.
Acknowledge the Success of Others
Take time to acknowledge and celebrate the success of others. Switch on to notice opportunities where people are sharing an achievement, or a goal they are working towards. Pick up the phone, or make time with them, to say “Hey, I heard about your success in ________ and I wanted to tell you how wonderful I think that is! Congratulations!”
The key to this is to focus the entire exchange around one purpose: to congratulate. Don’t combine your chat with any other business, don’t talk about yourself, or ask for a favour. You can say “Hey I only have about ten minutes; I just wanted to call to say how thrilled I am for you”. If you want to get really fancy, you could send a card, write a note, or give them a gift.
Become a Great Listener
A great conversationalist is someone who can listen and then respond with relevance. RELEVANCE is the operative word here! Your response must directly relate to what someone else has just said. Get curious, ask questions, and learn what makes them tick.
When you are still mentally hanging on to a story you want to tell, or you are planning the next thing you are going to say, you cannot possibly respond with relevance. You are not present, and you are waiting for your next opportunity to be a GETTER of significance.
Give a Great Compliment
I did some work with a sales team recently and one of the guys was a classic GETTER of significance. There was one particular day where I showed up to do some 1-2-1 work with someone on the team, and this guy said “Hey Tara, you look really nice today”. And it was so profoundly insincere that I didn’t feel special at all. I felt small and uncertain. I called him on it, and he seemed shocked to be caught out. Classic situation where the high performer is suppressing the success of others by being… well… a jerk. Luckily that day I was wearing my big girl panties, so I quickly remembered that I am awesome and my internal significance buffered me!
What you must understand is that if you don’t really mean it, don’t say it! People are incredibly intuitive. Your communication is a combination of your facial expressions, the tone and pitch of your voice, the expression in your eyes, your body language, and your words. Most people won’t know why something is off, but believe me they will FEEL it.
Say Thank You, on the Record!
So many people go through their days never hearing even a thank you, let alone a thoughtful and appreciative testimonial! The beauty of a testimonial is that your GIVING of significance has been magnified; you are now GIVING significance to that person in the eyes of many!
A testimonial could be in the form of a verbal rap to a colleague or your boss “It was so great last week when they did [thing], it made a massive impact on our project and allowed the day to run really smoothly”. It could be a letter to a local business thanking a specific employee for the qualities that they have that you appreciate when you see them. Maybe you could write a Facebook or online review? And it doesn’t need to be business! Could you tell your Mum how awesome your sister is? Or tell your kids how wonderful your husband is? Maybe tell a friend how kind another friend has been?
It has been a long time since I had to quip my way into and out of battle, and I have since seen so many times the damage that this culture does. Yeah, your mate might laugh it off, but they internalise it. Don’t kid yourself.
Such simple shifts in behaviour can create huge results in improved communication, collaboration, and connection. I wonder if you tried a different way, whether the results you would get in your relationships might change? And whether as a result of the change in your relationships, whether your results in other areas of your life might change?