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Overcoming Blind Spots to Create Connection

Author:  Jacy Imilkowski (Featured Expert in WCWI's Regional Workshops)

The approach for crafting a comprehensive and supportive employee wellness strategy is evolving. In the second generation of WELCOA’s seven benchmarks, there is an emphasis on engaging stakeholders at all levels of your organization to collaborate together to build and sustain a strategy. Ongoing commitment, engagement, and alignment of leaders, managers, and contributors from all levels and all areas of the organization will lead to true impact for a culture of wellness.  How do you connect with others at your organization to support this collaborative effort toward wellness? It begins with having a conversation. 
Have you ever proposed an idea for your wellness strategy that you think your manager will support, but they were just not ‘on board’? Or have you ever found it difficult to find common ground when discussing wellness strategy with your leadership team? Conversational Intelligence expert, Jacy Imilkowski, writes a guest blog article describing these challenges as ‘communication blind spots’ and introduces tips for how to overcome them:
Up until I was about twenty-five years old, I assumed that everyone in the world wanted to go skydiving. I still remember the conversation when I found out that wasn't true. It was a beautiful day, and I was hanging out with a friend of mine. I was staring up into the sky just imagining how amazing it would be to jump out of a plane and feel myself plummeting towards the Earth. 
“Wouldn't it be awesome to go skydiving???” I said to my friend.

“Umm, NO,” she said with an incredulous look on her face. That caught me completely by surprise. Why would someone NOT want to go skydiving? That didn't even make sense to me!
“Wait, what? You don't want to go skydiving? Are you serious?” 
“Of course I am! Skydiving is stupid,” she casually replied.
I was stunned and frustrated. I just couldn’t understand why she would say such a thing! The frustration I experienced was due to a cortisol (a stress neurotransmitter) response in my brain. My heart rate increased, my muscles got tight, and I was prepared to argue with my friend that she DID, in fact, want to skydive.
And then it hit me all at once: Oh my gosh… NOT EVERYONE IN THE WORLD WANTS TO GO SKYDIVING. Not-skydiving is TOTALLY a thing!
My mind was blown. How many other times have I failed to realize that not everyone thinks like I do, and how has that thinking impacted my communication and relationships? This was a low stakes situation, but it sets the stage for a common communication blind spot: We often fail to realize that others have different perspectives than we do.  
Imagine there are two people in a conversation, each holding one of the common perspectives below:
  1. Stopping by someone’s desk to chat is a fun break in the day.
  2. Chatting during the workday is a distraction.
What happens when they assume the other shares their perspective? One person is chatting away, wondering why their co-worker is being so curt with them. The other person doesn’t understand why their hints that they need to get back to work aren’t being picked up. Ultimately they both get frustrated, which leads to a cortisol response in the brain. Their communication gets disconnected, and their relationship will be negatively impacted. 
Blind spots close us off to other’s perspectives and prevent meaningful connection and communication. It’s important that we're able to recognize these blind spots when they come up. Signs of blind spots include:
  • Feeling a cortisol stress response in our bodies
  • Thinking to ourselves, “That other person is just wrong!”  
  • Believing that our answer is the right answer for everyone
When you notice these things happening, it is key to:
  • Acknowledge it: “Hey, I think I might be making an assumption here.”
  • Share perspectives: “Can we each share where we’re coming from?”
  • Listen to connect: Let go of judgment and listen in order to learn about someone else’s perspective. 
These three skills will help generate oxytocin in the brain, a connection neurotransmitter that creates space for collaboration, communication, and effective teamwork. 
To successfully gain support and commitment of your leadership at your organization, and to collaborate with contributors from all areas of your organization, there is an opportunity for you as a wellness professional to build and practice your conversational skills. Having connected conversations can be an important step toward enriching your employee wellness strategy efforts.
Build Your Conversational Intelligence Skills
Jacy Imilkowski (just think “I-milk-cows-on-skis”)  is born storyteller, self-admitted communication nerd, and champion of cultivating resilience in the workplace. Her interactive presentations are focused on real-world application. Participants leave with tools they can apply the same day. During her 20+ years of coaching, speaking, training, and managing projects she has developed and delivered hundreds of learning sessions across the country. Clients include American Family Insurance, Mayo Clinic, the WI Department of Health Services, Medical College of Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin, and professional associations including PMI, SHRM, ATD, HIMSS, and more. Jacy is a certified project manager, coach, laughter leader, and a professional member of the National Speakers Association. She loves her dog, and she probably loves your dog (cat, bird, or lizard) too.

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