Do You Want To Be Exhausting To Others

Do You Want To Be Exhausting To Others?


Coaching people to engage in proper behavior depending on the situation – reading the room – is growing. Likely because it’s difficult for many people. Theories abound that it has to do with when a person was born and the world they grew up in. I’ll subscribe to that notion. After all, you must realize that people entering the workforce today never lived in a world without the Internet and some form of social media. And they never lived in a world without texting and smartphones. It’s bound to have an impact.

However, my work sometimes involves people in their 40s and 50s. So what do you say to that?

I’m still trying to figure it out and help my clients do the same. This much I know. People who handle most conversations by trying to inject humor with a joking demeanor are self-focused. 100% of the time I’ve found these folks are poor listeners and either clamoring for more spotlight OR they’re uncomfortable and masking that discomfort by trying to be funny.

Sadly, they fail to understand how exhausting that is for the rest of the room. And how damaging it is to how they’re perceived as unable to take anything seriously. It’s not about being grave and not having a good time. It’s being able to harness our ability to know when it’s helpful to be one and avoid being the other. Time and place matter.

There’s a time for levity. There’s a time for a sober demeanor. It’s why my “progression of leadership” was born many years ago. Humility is the foundation of the progression. Without that, there’s no progression. Following humility is curiosity – which fosters more listening than talking (enter the person who is always intent on trumping your story). Curiosity is followed by knowledge. Those who ask questions learn things they didn’t know before. Then comes understanding. That knowledge helps us now understand more (better). Then, the entire progress culminates in compassion, which is simply defined as “a focus on others.”

And there you have it. The heart of the problem. Those who only engage in levity – or those intending to insert levity at every opportunity (including those inopportune moments) are focused on themselves. They’re not thinking about you or the conversation or the situation.

Leaning toward wisdom is mostly our effort to lean further away from our own foolishness. And to know when we’ve behaving foolishly.

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