Reality Check: The Offer of Information

A choice theory premise is that we can’t control other people; however, we can offer information. Someone who accepts information might learn a new fact, be persuaded to make a decision, or be influenced to act differently.

Fundamentally, though, what we offer is just information. The person on the receiving end chooses to use it or not. They have the power to listen to it, act on it, reject it, or ignore it.

Ned is new on the job. He’s a friendly, jolly guy, younger than his co-workers. He jokes around, laughs loudly, and makes comments that are a little inappropriate for his work environment.

As Ned’s co-worker, you hear people talking about him behind his back. They call him immature, saying, “He’ll never fit in; he brags, he’s not serious; he won’t last.”

Of course, no one says anything to Ned directly. That would be rude, wouldn’t it? So Ned carries on, blissfully unaware that with each guffaw, prank, and crude joke, he is cementing the negative perception that his coworkers have developed.

You’re finding the situation uncomfortable. Ned’s a good worker; however, he seems so clueless about his behaviour. You are certain that if he keeps it up, he’ll be fired. You’d like to help, but how?

You could offer Ned information—feedback on how you perceive his actions. Some methods of offering information are more effective than others; here are a few suggestions:

First, ask permission before you say anything. For example,

  • May I tell you what I see happening?
  • May I offer an observation?
  • Would you like to hear how the situation looks to me?

But….but….what if Ned says, “No”?

Well, at least now you know that there’s no value in talking to him. If you do carry on regardless, your comments likely won’t be heard or valued. Of course, if you hadn’t asked permission, Ned wouldn’t have valued your comments either. So at least you haven’t wasted your precious breath thinking that you are helping someone when in fact, you’re not.

Now, assuming Ned agrees to hear you out, what do you say next?

  • Stick to facts—what you actually see or hear. “Ned, what I see happening is customers walking away when you are telling jokes.”
  • Speak for yourself, not for anyone else. “I feel uncomfortable when you talk about your escapades because you include a little too much personal information for me.”
  • You might ask, “What was your intent?” Ned may well say that all he is trying to do is break the ice, become more comfortable with the group.
  • Try making a concrete suggestion. “What I’d like to hear is how you are doing, but without those intimate details.”

It’s up to Ned whether he acts on the information.

What if his response isn’t receptive? Maybe he’ll accuse you of having no sense of humour! That’s his choice; he can offer information to you, too! And you can act on it, ignore it, reject it, or follow up with more information of your own. That’s your choice.

What do you think of offering (or receiving) information?

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