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Archive for April, 2014

The Most Dangerous Delusion-Part 1

I have been a management consultant for thirty-five years.
I have worked with thousands of people in countless organizations helping them work together more effectively.
For years I believed “poor communication” was the cause of most problems. I spent lots of time giving people tips to communicate effectively. I believed I had identified the problem.
I was wrong.

What I Learned

I no longer believe that communication is the problem. I believe it is a symptom. The problem I believe goes way “up river.” It starts with the sender of a message. If the sender is positively consistent, they will be perceived as emotionally “safe.” When people are safe, we connect with them. When we are connected, communication is not a problem. If, however, someone is inconsistent or negative, we will begin to feel unsafe around them. The connection between us will be ruptured and communication will suffer. When that happens, all the communication techniques and tricks in the world will not solve the problem.

As I watch people in organizations interact, these are some of my observations:

People in organizations tend to focus on their own needs rather than organizational needs.
It’s not that people don’t care about their coworkers or the company; they’re just thinking about what they have to do and are often times so focused they forget that what they do is affecting others. I don’t imagine many people wake up in the morning and ask themselves “I wonder how many people I can frustrate today?”

Many of us walk around believing other people know what we want and know how we feel.
We are all victims of our own reality trapped in our own heads listening to the sounds of our own voices believing other people believe or should believe what we believe.
They don’t.

We tend to want others to see things our way, and we have difficulty accepting that there are always two realities.
Communication expert Paul Watzlawick put it best. “The belief that one’s own view of reality is the only reality is the most dangerous of all delusions.”
Not only is it dangerous, it’s silly. The way we view the world is a function of our experiences and perspective. It’s a lot like sitting around a table. When we sit around a table we see the room from a different angle. What each of us sees is different but real.

One of the biggest communication problem coworkers experience is being negative with each other—complaints, putdowns, criticism and blaming.

Negativity is a bad habit. It is toxic and destroys connection. It tells the other person they are less than… It is “pathologically dysfunctional behavior.” It has no place in human discourse. So what is “negativity?” “Negativity” is anything the other person says is negative.

The major skill that people need to learn is how to have a conversation that is safe so each person can relax their defenses and be open and honest with each other.

I have always believed that being smart does not mean you have the answers. It means you are smart enough to get the answers. I needed much smarter minds than mine to help me teach others to learn to communicate and connect more effectively so I sought the advice of relationship experts Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt ( The skills I learned from Drs. Hendrix and Hunt and how to apply them is the subject of next month’s article.

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