What if it’s not them?

October, 2020

Communication is the currency of all human transaction. 

Anywhere you lack results, anywhere there is resignation, anywhere there is tension or conflict, something is missing in your communication.

It doesn’t mean you’re bad at it. You have skills, you haven’t given up, and all your past successes came from effective communication. It’s the only way you’ve ever accomplished anything.

So, if you are a good communicator, why do so many things still not work the way you want them to?

The obvious answer is… it’s them!

But what if it’s not?

All human beings, yes, even you, have a hidden weakness in the form of communication blindspots. They come in several forms.

  • Filters
  • Stories
  • Assumptions and beliefs

One filter I have, an omni-present and never satisfied question, is “Are you listening?”

Sounds innocuous. Why wouldn’t I want people to listen when I talk? Except I’m not asking the question (silently) with the innocence of a child. 

I’m listening with the edge of a 50-year old with a lifetime of suspicion and doubt from all the people who didn’t do what I wanted, didn’t do what I expected, didn’t do what I told them to do.

So, it’s not really “are you listening?” but “Do you respect me?” And you can guess what the predetermined answer to that question is. If I’m willing to dive deeper to reveal more blindspots, nested together like Russian dolls, there is a deeper filter about people in general. All people. And another, deeper, filter about myself. If I never discover those filters, they invisibly, inevitably, and powerfully impact what I hear when people speak AND what I will and won’t say back to them, including how I say it and how effective it is.

Here’s a story I have about me: I’m smart.

Always have been. I could count the highest of anyone in my class when I started kindergarten (to 1000, btw, if you’re interested… yes, my mother was a patient woman!) I won the Read-a-thon two years in a row, third and fourth grade, and got test scores in high school that meant scholarships and free money for university.

See? A lifetime of proof. Who doesn’t want to be smart?

But, what was in my blindspot was the downside of my story about me.

In kindergarten, I wasn’t arrogant about it. I didn’t lord it over anyone. I just liked numbers.  By third grade, I knew I read more books than most kids (except Tracey, also super smart, and everyone knew that too.)  I knew I didn’t need to be bribed with marshmallows (like Timmy, whose desk was often turned to face the wall) to get my reading done.  So, 8 years old, and I’m judging other people’s value on the scale of smarts, of which I was at or near the top.  I didn’t know I was laying the groundwork for a lifetime of assessing others and how that would impact my ability to communicate freely and clearly. Besides, the system—including my parents, teachers, and peers—was telling me to keep winning.  In third grade it was a free skateboard, achieved in a contest for reading lots of books.  By 28, it was a 3-day weekend in Cancun with free booze for being one of the best (ie, smartest) salespeople.  By then, sitting on the beach with the other “winners” talking about how awesome we all were, the arrogance and judgement were becoming easier to spot.

The dark side of the story-of-Kevin remained unexamined, the obvious rewards keeping the impact hidden in my blindspot.

I have a way that I win in life. For me to win, someone has to lose.

You have one too. The story of you is built around that winning. As long as you are “winning” whatever game you’re playing, whoever you have to dominate becomes an acceptable and necessary cost.

Belief is whatever for you is “The Truth” absent any evidence other than your strong feelings.

It’s the phenomenon of you walking into the meeting already knowing what’s going to be said, who’s going to say it, and how they’ll say it.  

It’s all the things you already know about everyone in the room:  

What they’re like, what they want, what their agenda is, what their strengths and weaknesses are, where they will agree or disagree with you, what you can count on them for and what you can’t, what they are capable of and where they will let you down, whether or not they’ll take your side. These beliefs are hard earned through the trials and tribulations of the last meeting.  And the one before that, and the one before that. Maybe you have “scars” from past interactions with some of these people.  Now imagine that everyone else walks into the room with their own Truth, different than yours, already decided and already held just as firmly.

How’s that meeting going to go?


So… what’s your story about you that is silently wrecking your communication?

What filters do you have, and don’t know you have, that get you in trouble?

What beliefs for you go unchallenged, the Truth you will defend until your dying day?

If you’re ready for a deep dive into what doesn’t work about your communication, join us at one of our upcoming Unstoppable Communication workshops and discover it for yourself.

About the author 

Kevin Gangel

Kevin Gangel is the Unstoppable CEO and co-founder. He has grown an award-winning professional services firm from $0 - $15M, been a Chief Environmental Officer, taught Board Governance, been a certified Mediator and Negotiator, and speaks for TEC Canada, the McKay CEO Forums, and the Canada Speakers Bureau.

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