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Great Questions to Ask to Change Annoying Behavior

Written by Marshall Goldsmith

Most of any leader's annoying habits and interpersonal flaws are rooted in information compulsion.change annoying behavior

Sharing and withholding are two sides of the same tarnished coin. For example, when you insist on adding more value, passing judgment, making destructive comments, announcing that you already know, or explaining why something won't work, you are compulsively sharing information-- convinced that you are making people smarter or inspiring them to do better, when you are more likely having the opposite effect. When you fail to give recognition, or claim credit you don't deserve, or refuse to apologize, or don't express your gratitude, you are withholding information.

Other annoying habits are rooted in a different compulsion--one that's centered on emotion. When you get angry, play favorites, or punish the messenger, you are succumbing to emotion-- and displaying it for all to see.

You either share information and emotion, or withhold them. It's good to share information that helps people and good to withhold information when it harms people (many secrets should be kept). The same goes for emotion: it's worth sharing sometimes, and other times, not worth it at all.

What Is Appropriate? When dealing with information or emotion, you need to consider if what you are sharing is appropriate. Appropriate information helps the other person; inappropriate information risks hurting someone. Discussing a rival company's good fortune can be positive if it gets your people to work harder, but it's inappropriate when it soils other people's reputations. Instruction is usually appropriate, to a point. It's the difference between someone giving you simple directions to their house and telling you every wrong turn you can make along the way. At some point, with too many red flags, you will get lost, confused, or wary of making the trip at all.

Emotion, too, must be shared appropriately.

For example, love is often an appropriate emotion, but even saying 'I love you' can be inappropriate if you employ it too often or at awkward moments. Conversely, anger can be a useful tool if you parse it out in small doses at opportune moments.

When sharing information or emotion, ask, 'Is this appropriate?' and 'How much should I convey?' Pause and pose these questions as guidelines for anything you do or say.

You can change your annoying behavior-- and your colleagues will notice.

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Marshall

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My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


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