Behavior is Communication

A friend of mine called me the other day to ask for career advice.

In a recent reorganization, he was assigned to a new boss. The two did not get along well.

The new boss kept send him emails about his failures to perform. When he would ask his boss in person for specific feedback on what he wanted him to do differently, the boss wouldn’t give any specifics.

He would only say verbally, "You’re doing a good job." However the next day, the boss would send another email indicating my friend’s performance was below expectations.

Of course, my friend was frustrated because every time he’d ask about what was expected, he wouldn’t get a clear answer from his boss.

This is when I said to my friend, “You do realize that your boss is finding some legal way to get rid of you, right?”

He didn’t.

What my friend wasn’t fully appreciating is that behavior is a form of communication.

He did notice the incongruence between his boss’s words (which were positive) and his email writing behavior (which was negative). He found this confusing... because it is!

However, I find that when words and behaviors deviate, we should pay attention to behaviors.

Words can lie. Actions do not.

If someone makes promises (words), but doesn’t keep them (actions), pay attention to the actions.

If someone says, "I respect you" (words), but then treats you disrespectfully (actions), pay attention to the actions.

If someone says, "I will promote you" (words), but then passes you over for a promotion three times in a row (actions), pay attention to the actions.

When words and actions don’t match, pay attention to the actions.

On the flip side of things, when your words and actions match, people trust you more.

When you say what you will do, then you do what you say, people trust you more.

When people trust you more, they will make decisions solely on your words. This is an enormous advantage professionally and makes for much better relationships personally.

Remember that behavior is communication.

What are others trying to “tell” you?

What are you “saying” to others with your actions?

It’s worth thinking about...

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