Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Eliminating the Passive Pattern

My brother recently shared this with me..

Eliminating the Passive Pattern
By Barbara Pachter, president of Pachter and Associates, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and author of The Power of Positive Confrontation.November 2000, Purchasing Today®, page 8.
Did you ever wonder what may be holding you back from job advancement? Passive communication patterns may be what's stalling your career.

Business Etiquette:
Jack was the expert. No one else in his department had the same grasp on financial issues as he did. Yet Jack was passed over a second time for a promotion. Finally, his manager told him that until he got rid of his wimpy handshake and nervous giggle, he was not going anywhere in the organization. He was stunned. He didn't even realize that he was doing those things.

Jack is a real person, one of the many supply management professionals with stalled-out careers who are in need of help to break out of what is known as the "passive pattern."
The passive pattern is defined as the failure to present oneself with strength and conviction. Instead of using more polite and powerful behavior, people with the passive pattern use self-defeating communication mannerisms - like the wimpy handshake and the nervous giggle - often without knowing it.

Of course, no one is perfect. We can all have a communication habit that works against us in some small way. The difficulty is when they start adding up, when you have two or more of these behaviors. That's a pattern. It's passive. You look unprofessional.
How do you know if you suffer from the passive pattern? If you do good work but aren't getting promoted, that can be a sign. There are other signs as well - your suggestions don't get taken, your proposals aren't accepted, your ideas go ignored, conflicts aren't resolved, or your orders are not followed.

If this describes the state of your career, tune into your verbal and nonverbal communication habits and look for mistakes.

Eight Areas of Communication to TargetIn addition to the wimpy handshake and the nervous giggle, here are eight more of the most common mistakes that can add up to a career problem for supply managers:

1. Using qualifying words.
These are extra words that are added to sentences that can make even the smartest person sound tentative and unsure. Qualifying words include "kinda," "sorta," "maybe," and "perhaps." "I was kinda, in a way, somewhat sure the materials would arrive on time." Well, were you or weren't you? Remember, if you sound confident, more people are likely to see you as confident. If you discount yourself, it's easy for others to also discount you.
2. Using "I think" when you know.
If you are asked, "What time is the meeting on Monday?" do you answer, "I think the meeting is at 3 p.m." or "The meeting is at 3 p.m."? If you are unsure of the time, you can use "I think." But don't say "I think" when you know. You want to be viewed as a credible source.
3. Speaking too softly.
If your volume is low, it becomes easy not to hear you. You can then become invisible and easy to ignore. Many people have no idea that they speak as softly as they do. A suggestion you could use to detect this pattern would be to tape yourself at various distances from a recorder and then listen to hear if your volume carries.
4. Playing with hands.
It's hard to be taken seriously when you are wringing your hands or twisting paper clips. Clicking pens, twisting rubber bands, twirling mustaches, and fidgeting with glasses are examples of mannerisms that can become distractions that may take away from what is being said by the speaker.
5. Using "I don't know" as extra words.
This is not saying "I don't know" because you truly don't know something. This is using "I don't know" as a way to discount what you have just said: "I suggest we implement the original plan. It's affordable, I don't know… "
6. Standing passively.
Business professionals who stand with their legs crossed, slouch, or fold their arms over their chests don't look open, confident, and professional. They look like they would rather be anywhere else than where they are. Stand assertively. Keep your legs parallel with your shoulders, about three to four inches apart. This does not mean you must stand rigid. Keep your shoulders back, but not way back, and keep your chin straight. Unless you're gesturing, your hands can be at your side.
7. Avoiding eye contact.
In some cultures, too much eye contact is a faux pas, but in the United States, you need to look people in the eye when speaking with them. You may occasionally look away. But if you mostly look away, you can appear nervous or insincere. If a supplier is not looking at you when discussing delivery arrangements, you will have a tendency not to believe that person.
8. Overusing "I'm sorry."
This is apologizing for no reason. One woman says, "It's raining today, I'm sorry," as if it is her fault. One manager says to her customer, "I am sorry to bother you today." Again, if you discount yourself, it's easy for others to also discount you.

Suggested Solutions:
Get feedback every year to discover if you are doing any of the "passive pattern" items. The first step in eliminating any of them is to discover which ones you do. Means of correcting communication mistakes include:

1. Take a good presentation skills class that videotapes you. You need to see and hear what you are doing.
2. Listen to voice mail messages before sending them. Rerecord your messages as necessary to catch qualifying words and other communication mistakes. Five out of the eight communication mistakes can be detected through this practice.
3. Work with a career coach.
4. Ask trusted and qualified friends and colleagues to monitor your communication skills.

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Lucia Lai said...

hey this is interesting. i think i do suffer from passive pattern. no wonder after all these years of work i'm still the junior clerk. and in some organisations i'm in, can never be president/chairwoman.

the 8 points listed here do describe me (except no. 8 - not so much). aware of this now, i guess i should learn to see how i can correct myself.

thanks for the insight, brandon.

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Brandon Teoh said...

Dear Lucia,

no prob.

Sorry late reply. I pay more attention to my other blog.

This one given from my brother.

Actually, personally this is a bit too official. It is like you are expected to live on other's expectation, which is not good for this world. To put things clearly, it is like going for a movie where the following patterns are commons:

1. James Bond - Tall, Sexy, Suave.
2. Scientist - Specky, long hair, skinny.
3. Tough cops - Big, a bit bald, rough talking.

Thus, if you cast the opposite, the movie is not selling.

I still think that by keeping a good attitude, you can have a great life.

lisa harolds:
Ok, I will read your blog and also exchange links.