April 18, 2012

Yelling Doesn't Work

An oldie but still gold. 

In the early 1960's, when Tom Watson Jr. was CEO of IBM he discovered that one of his executives made a mistake costing the company $10 million. He called the man into his office asking him "Do you know why I called you here?" The man replied "I assume you're going to fire me."

"Fire you?" Watson replied. "I spent $10 million educating you. I just want to be sure you learned the right lessons."

Watson could have easily justified yelling at, reprimanding or firing the executive. That was the expected and easier response. But his choice instead turned failure into an opportunity for learning and growth that ultimately would benefit both men and the  company. 

It also increased the integrity or wholeness of the company. No doubt people were inspired and encouraged by his reaction whereas another response might have set up a collective fear response. People might then be afraid to take risks for fear of failure.

When we communicate, we do more than convey a thought or idea, we create a world for ourselves and those who receive the communication that will result in either a positive or negative response in the other person. 

Too often, we turn our brain on loudspeaker without considering how our words will affect those listening. 

Being yelled at or reprimanded leads to a threat response in the brain resulting in resources being channeled away from the working memory which processes new information and ideas. This impairs problem solving, creative and analytical thinking at a time when people most need these resources.

Instead try wholesome communication that respects the other person's worldview, brings clarity, learning and understanding to the situation resulting in a positive outcome for all involved. This empowers people to learn from mistakes, grow and move forward supporting you and those around you to reach your (and their) greatest potential. 

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