It is still an amazing thought to realize the source of feeling you get from an experience, even when you are troubled that you might be wrong. You might mentally teeter on that side or this side, but somehow you just know.
Understanding comes either from a life-long pursuit of understanding through books and teachings or simply an undefined wisdom that crept day by day, experience through experience, into the network of the mind.
I have come to see the behaviors of others as part of a story that slowly unfolds before me, like a movie in my mind. I’ve sat in meetings and have stared at the faces of those in the room only to glance away as their wondering gaze juts back and forth and then finally towards mine. I am looking for information with which I hope to fashion into intelligence.
I want to understand others, how they feel, what they think and where their mind is taking them. While I don’t believe in the supernatural 6th sense or the merely entertaining concept of mind reading, I do believe in the ability to mix mindful experience with social commonalities and just enough imagination to bake a tasty human understanding pie.
While I have spent a fair more amount of time than many others watching people as a voyeur (not the creepy kind) I have developed an ease of belief in how some feel in some situations and others feel in other situations. Combining memory, willingness for empathy, and imagination I trust myself to see what others are feeling before, during and after events. I believe that the imagination portion plays a crucial part in my derived intelligence but only because I recognize what imagination might be.
Imagination is our ability to see into the future or to where we can’t likely use our eyes and cognitive ability. We string together our past experiences and the stories we’ve heard to weave a tapestry of what lies beyond. To finalize our creation we toss in a helping of possibility, probability and then we plagiarize the rest.
That Was The What. Here Is The Why.
I sat in a meeting sometime back and witnessed an amazing display of non-verbal communication. This particular meeting was not unique in either the content or the roster of those present.
It was, however, distinct in my mind as it was the third or fourth time I had witnessed the same non-verbal display by the same person. He sat next to me this time and so his gestures, muted sounds and tones of irreverence blared at me as if Louis Armstrong had nestled the business end of his trumpet up to my ear and blown hard.
I recognized each of the tones he used while speaking and they all would be thrown into the condescension bucket. In step with his tones was an amazing ability to employ sarcasm and anger in such a way that neither was overbearing on the other but a sheer mastery mix of disdain.
What stands out to me as the ultimate amazement from this behavioral dance of the macabre, is the fact that I was the only one who noticed. With two other professionals in tow during this experience I walked out of the meeting dizzy from wondering if either I had just had a hallucinatory experience or if I had discovered a superpower that I had in noticing sheer ugly anger.
It was my ability to replay my experience, tone for tone, non-verbal gesture for gesture and almost word for word that grounded me into what is now my honest recollection of that meeting. I’d sat with one professional willing to metaphorically shed his suit and behave like an irrational child and two others who forgot to put their professional suits on that morning. Together the four of us accomplished the weary task of building tremendous walls between each of us and our ability to work together.
The outcome of the meeting was greatly unfavorable for me, my judgments and desires, but that seems completely unimportant now and honestly it was also unimportant right after the meeting. What stands out was the obvious way in which one of my colleagues behaved and how the other two completely missed it. Could it have been my imagination? I’d rather consider a lack of courage served up in chilled glasses to the three of them and having been gulped down before I arrived.
Enough of the story dripping with sufficient metaphor to make a college professor choke; here’s my take on the bottom line:
Behaving in a professional manner includes the ability to control your emotions and believe both in action and behavior, showing that the people you are working with are your partners. If you treat your partners with behaviors and words which would likely get your face slapped from your dear grandmother then you’ve failed your emotional intelligence test, the class and the ability to retake the class should you so choose.
Professionalism in its mastery form looks like the Dalai Lama negotiating for peace for Tibet, not like Donald Trump enjoying the words, “You’re Fired!” It lies in the words as they are formed to make sentences and the expressions which frame the sentences. It is a totality of empathy and understanding combined with surgical skill in clarity and premier respect, for even your worst corporate enemies.
It is true that this level of professionalism is saved for the cream of the crop, but then what else should we aspire to? We should consider our furrowed brows, our rolling eyes and the shape of our mouths as much as we do for the words which flow from the latter. We should aspire to show people our charisma, which by definition makes others really want to hear what we have to say.
We all should step away from our partners in business and in life leaving them with a sense of awe and admiration, not vilification having been insulted because it is the only way in which we might make our case. As professionals we owe it to each other to learn as much as we can about how we look, act and treat others as the worst forms of ourselves and then discard those non-verbals, tones and words in exchange for the ones that make us better professionals.