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Are You Outwardly or Inwardly Focused?

Last week we delved into “Creating Safe Spaces for Difficult Discussions” and the fact that the success of everything we do that involves another person or persons literally comes down to how effectively we communicate, whether we can get our point and needs across, and whether we can field a healthy interaction that acknowledges the needs and differences of others.
 
One of the points of discussion that’s come up as a result is whether our communications are outwardly or inwardly focused.
 
Often, when we think we’re communicating well, effectively and even expansively, we’re still left with a little niggle when the desired results don’t seem as free flowing or don’t feel as good as we expect them to.  Sometimes we’re still left feeling less than secure about the support we receive.
 
One of the greatest barriers to effective communication is the direction of our focus, and when we’ve been put in a position of defence in the past, if we’re uncertain of the ground we stand on or anticipate less than favourable results, our focus can be inward instead of outward.
 
What this means is that we unwittingly communicate with a slight reservation, or with somewhat of a dictatorial manner to eliminate argument – even if we do so with a smile on our face and receive smiles in response.  So how do we tell the difference?  How do we know if we’re getting it right?
 
Well, if we’re getting it right, then the relationship between us and our stakeholders will feel warm and open, and as much as we give out, they’ll give back of their own accord.  This won’t be something we have to convince ourselves of.  We won’t have any reservation about how and what we communicate and we won’t feel anxiety about the response we’ll receive.  We won’t have to “tell” people how it will be or what they need to do so that we circumvent any anticipated push back, and we’ll be open to communication coming in the opposite direction without wondering whether we’ll have to defend ourselves if we leave space for someone to talk to us.  We’ll look forward to feedback, even when it’s critical, because it will allow us to improve and we’ll be used to fielding it effectively.
 
When our communications are inwardly focused, they are more about what’s good for us than what’s good for others involved.  Our benefit, our schedule, our needs, and what makes us feel good or invites others to show us how appreciated we are.  We allow others opportunities to demonstrate their loyalty and thanks by telling them how to do so, and what we desire.  We set schedules and issue orders under the name of organisation.  We set traditions that require our stakeholders to give back without making it voluntary, being a tradition and all.
 
Outwardly focused communication is a whole other ball game with a whole other set of results.  It is free flowing with the good of others in mind, and the proof is in the pudding when those we aim at feel that focus and give back.
 
When we are outwardly focused, we ask ourselves questions like: How easy is it to do business with us?  How can we make it a more rewarding experience?  How easy is it for stakeholders to express an opinion?  How can we schedule our needs to incorporate as many of our stakeholders as possible so that the most benefit?  How much of what we do is for PR, and how much of it is to really ensure a full experience that enhances the lives of all involved?  Do we communicate in a way that keeps everyone up to date and invites feedback?  What channels do we have active for feedback and how well are they used?  Are they free flowing and useful and if not, what may be prohibiting that flow?  Are we open to criticism and how do we respond and follow up on it?  When was the last time we acted on the feedback or opinion of one of our stakeholders?  Do we have a warmly two-way relationship with our stakeholders or are we convincing ourselves that we do?
 
If you’ve ever had to act from a position of defence or uncertainty (and most of us have), and especially if you’ve had to hold that position for a period of time, then it’s well worth investigating whether the way you go about things is to create your own security and ease rather than to invite relationship and involvement from those you may have had to “manage” in the past.
 
This isn’t a comfortable thing to examine, and it’s often easier to reassure yourself that you and your team have it taped, rather than to consider that your routine, schedule, planning, traditions, lines of communication and manner of communication may need some re-tuning.
 
The reward for becoming more outwardly focused is almost instantaneous though, because courage is rewarded with support, and vulnerability of one with the vulnerability of others.  If you’d like to operate from a position of better security, of healthy relationships and of staunch support, focus outward on to the needs of others rather than dictating your needs first and waiting for others to comply.  Dip your toe in the water and ASK others whether what you’re doing works for them.

by Christen Killick

November 25th, 2019

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