A few months ago, I wrote a blog about how very, very LOUD the world feels these days. I mentioned that I had little ability to filter content through the clatter, so instead, I was aiming to manage my responses and always lead with kindness. It hasn’t changed the noise level, but the interactions feel “softer” and I feel better about the level of care I am showing to others.
As a “cloud” company executive, much of my noise comes in the form of email. Bourree Lam wrote an article in The Atlantic about this subject. She states, “The daily bombardment of digital communications is maddening not just for stressed-out workers, but also for the managers tasked with maximizing their teams’ productivity.” She notes that businesspeople send and receive an estimated 122 emails per day.
There is another article, this time from Inside Higher Ed, on Best Practices for Professional Email by Natalie Lundsteen. Her basic tips to help you have clear and confident electronic communication include advice on streamlining.
But what if your noise is more in-person? A few readers were kind enough to share their tips on managing noise, and I think that much of this boils down to intent, perception, and technique.
Lorelei VerLee is the Founder and Executive Director of Creative Women of the World, an organization that combines sustainable business training, art, and entrepreneurship to empower women so they discover that they can be the ones to lift themselves out of poverty. Lorelei said, “In the middle of ‘noise’ I ask myself, ‘What is that person trying to tell me? What is the story they have created in their head in order to survive their own noise? What nonthreatening questions can I ask to help us get to the truth?’” I think Lorelei’s suggestion is especially important when the “incoming” feels aggressive or over-the-top; de-escalation through her technique can stop further stressful interactions and move the discussion forward.
Susan King Cope, Director of Development at Carolina Tiger Rescue, has taken de-escalation to new levels in her volunteer work with Better Angels, a national citizens’ movement to reduce political polarization in the United States. Susan said, “Within the context of monthly meetings, our local alliance tries to understand the other side’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it. We engage with those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together and we support principles that bring us together rather than divide us. While there is still ‘noise’ I have a much better attitude towards those I disagree with.”
Kay Tvaroch of the Englewood Community Coalition, an organization formed to combat the consequences of, and reduce, substance use in the community, said “I don't know who/where this came from, but I adopted it, and try to own it in action: Humankind - Be Both.”
And Anna Dirl, Membership Services Manager at the Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians, said, “Research the facts and data first in assessing any situation.”
Managing noise well requires intent to listen softly, active perception of the needs of others, and techniques to de-escalate. None of these steps lessens the amount of noise coming in, but it may make it less stressful. I wish you a quiet week.