This is a lemon crystal. That’s a type of cucumber, you know.
Consider this. A couple of months ago I bought a little cucumber plant at the village fete. I’d never grown one before, but it seemed to settle quite nicely in the greenhouse. A few days ago I noticed that it’s fruit didn’t quite look as I expected. Then I remembered that it had arrived with a faintly written label that said ‘lemon crystal’ on it.
Google came up with exactly 2 million hits. I looked at about the top 25, taking 40 minutes. Maybe I could have articulated my question more clearly, but to be honest, it was a bit foggy in my mind – along the lines of ‘Er…what’s going on here? What do I do with it?’
I found many contradictory bits of advice (Pick it big! Pick it small! Pick it green! Pick it yellow!)different opinions (It’s tasteless! It’s lovely!) and several names for the same thing so it took me a while to work out who and what to believe.
When there is conflict, who do you believe?
In the workplace, sometimes we face similar dilemmas. Stories don’t add up, we hear conflicting information or inconsistencies. Often the discrepancy or misinformation goes unchallenged. Why is this? Why aren’t we up in arms when the truth is obviously being distorted or ignored? Maybe:
- We don’t want to cause trouble by seeming to disbelieve a colleague
- We don’t want to open a can of worms – because then we will have to deal with it
- We don’t know how to address it without appearing confrontational or argumentative
How can you challenge people?
The most effective ways of challenging others are more about how you say it rather than what you say. All being confrontational does is encourage both sides to become even further entrenched in their positions. Instead, try just being curious. Isn’t it natural to be inquisitive when you’re trying to get to the bottom of something?
Check your body language to make sure that you’re relaxed and not squaring up for a fight, and phrase your question carefully, to show that you are exploring the information, not criticising the person. Your manner is critical here.
You could use phrases like:
“I’m getting mixed messages from you. You say…. but you do…..”
- “On one hand….. but on the other hand…” …
- “You tell me… but I see something different…”
(Taken from The One to One Toolkit)
Sometimes just telling the facts works well. (“You tell me the order is ready to go out yet there is no stock in the warehouse”) You can also try giving feedback (“You say the project is going well, yet you appear tense and worried”) or repeating their own words back to them – it can be powerful to hear your own words coming back at you!
- Be specific. If you are vague, it is easier for the other person to keep you in the fog.
- Use silence. Once someone realises that you have a different perception to them, they may need a few moments to process this and respond to it.
- Make it easy for them to back down. Admitting we are wrong, opinionated or misinformed doesn’t come easy.
Back to the cucumber!
In case you ever need to know – if you pick a crystal lemon while it is still green, it will taste like a lovely, crisper than normal cucumber. If you wait until it turns yellow, the flavour has gone. It’s easy to see now why the information was conflicting. Oh, and if I had asked an expert, they could have told me what I needed to know in 4.8 seconds – maybe that is a topic for another day!
By Julie Cooper
Author of Face to Face in the Workplace
“If you deal with people you need this book” Buy your copy here