– by David Mantica and John M. O’Connor
As business professionals we constantly have to work with people to get the job done. In today’s world where a myriad of distractions force us into quick responses there doesn’t seem to be a lot of time to process. In late 2016 IBM Corporation said that Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. This is so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data includes posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, information on the Kardashians and much, much more. In all seriousness this contributes to what we call digital distraction and it makes it hard to work with people, discern and make good decisions.
Here are 3 ways pragmatic tips for working with people in the age of digital distraction:
Don’t Respond with Anger. Anger and frustration will only escalate any difficult / uncomfortable situation. Most people at work, on the road and even those closest to you at home see and hear the world respond in nanoseconds to situations. Today we feel we hear news and we must react. Look at the immediacy of our election and Twitter back and forths. This digital age seems to require real time reaction to everything. Resist this and encourage others to resist it to, in person and on social media! Try what we call and is, of course, not digitally cool today and that is called reflecting. In communications you want to read body language and reflect back to that person based on how they communicate but not in difficult or uncomfortable situations. Also remember if you get upset, the concept of reflection will occur and they will reflect your anger with anger. Putting down your phone, folding the computer or device away from you, turning down the music and making eye contact says there is no one else I am intently listening to and nothing will distract me from what you are saying.
Know Your Referent Power. Referent power is one of the Five Bases of Social Power, as defined by Bertram Raven and his colleagues as far back as 1959. Definition: Referent power refers to the ability of a leader to influence a follower because of the follower’s loyalty, respect, friendship, admiration, affection, or a desire to gain approval. It is based on being inspirational, active, positive and helpful. A referent person focuses more on others than themselves. People are much more apt to open up and express themselves to someone who is easy to work with and has a friendly easy going personality. The key is watch out for crossing over to the “door mat” side. Who do you know who has referent power? Watch them. Study them. Ask them how they are able to focus in the age of digital distraction to really focus on others.
Stay Rational vs. Emotional. Okay we know you aren’t Spock from Star Trek but you need to use that rational side of your brain to really relate to people. Becoming emotionally involved early in a conversation can seem like you are in agreement but in many cases the person speaking to you needs rationality. Don’t be positive just to be positive. Listen and empathize and while doing this ask yourself what else is going on in this person’s world that could be eliciting an emotional response. Look at the person, recent events and the emotional climate. Don’t compliment just to placate. Ask open ended questions like Tell me more to keep them talking. Being rational is providing sound logical advice only after the person says they want that advice. Even if it is difficult for someone to hear hearing from someone whocares but wants to provide a rational case for cool headed action can be very, very powerful. You don’t have to provide difficult feedback and logical action steps in a negative way. Staying rational means being positive and even keeled as you deliver difficult and logical advice and feedback.
To help others the most encourage those around you to speak freely, and show that you want to listen and help. Try not to become emotionally charged and encourage those who seem to respond with anger or emotion to take time, reflect and above all do not make any decision on the fly, especially an emotional reaction. In business time is your best friend and in some cases it is your only friend. Use it to your advantage. Allow the full power of you cognitive abilities to work on a problem or solution. That means give time for the issues to ride around in your subconscious and percolate. Difficult people push for quick rash decisions; never placate that demand. Allow yourself time to make any decision.