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S2E12: Restructuring Workplace Communication: Navigating Toxicity and Stress with Lauren

The landscape of workplace communication is fraught with challenges. One of the biggest is navigating through toxic communication, a silent predator that not only hampers productivity but also leads to antisocial behavior, diminishes trust, and becomes deeply embedded into company culture. In this podcast episode, our guest, Lauren, delves into the core of this issue and provides practical strategies to navigate and transform your workplace communication dynamics.

Toxic positivity and stress-inducing environments are common in many workplaces. This can lead to an environment of low trust and stress, often resulting in antisocial behavior and stymied productivity. However, as Lauren highlights, the grim reality of toxic communication should not be surrendered to. Instead, we should aim to understand the intentions of our bosses better and be strategic when communicating in a toxic environment. Lauren emphasizes the power of prosody, communication etiquette, and even remote work protection strategies to navigate these murky waters.

A significant part of the conversation focused on transitioning from toxicity to harmony with effective communication. Lauren shared insights on depersonalization, the power of speaking in the future tense for problem-solving, and the importance of honing communication skills. The role of library studies in understanding how people think, interpret, and use information was also discussed.

Another key area of focus was on developing communication skills for challenging conversations. The importance of practicing communication skills in low-stakes scenarios was emphasized. Furthermore, Lauren discussed how performance backgrounds can help develop emotional intelligence and how depersonalization can be used to deflect blame and speaking in the future tense can focus on solutions.

To wrap up the episode, Lauren and the host chat about their work on communication and how they help people and organizations learn to communicate better. They discuss the different ways listeners can access Lauren’s videos and training materials, and her books. They also touch on how Lauren offers corporate workshops and speaking engagements.

In conclusion, toxic communication can have devastating effects on workplace productivity and interpersonal relationships. However, with the right strategies and an understanding of the nuances of communication, we can transform our workplaces into more productive, efficient, and harmonious spaces. By focusing on strategic communication, honing our skills, and leveraging the power of effective communication, we can bridge the communication gap and foster healthier work environments.

Effective workplace communication is the linchpin of a successful organization. It’s the bridge that connects individuals, teams, and leadership. In our conversation with Lauren, a renowned expert in workplace communication, we delve deep into the nuances of workplace communication. We explore strategies to enhance workplace communication, foster collaboration, and streamline information flow. Lauren shares practical insights into how clear and open workplace communication can lead to increased productivity and a more harmonious work environment. Join us to unlock the secrets of effective workplace communication.

Toxic positivity is a prevalent issue in many workplaces. It’s the tendency to dismiss or downplay genuine concerns and challenges with an excessive focus on maintaining a positive facade. This can create an environment where employees feel unable to express their real feelings and concerns, leading to stress and frustration. Our conversation with Lauren addresses this issue head-on. We discuss how toxic positivity can harm workplace dynamics and offer strategies to promote a more balanced and empathetic approach to emotions and challenges. By understanding and addressing toxic positivity, we aim to create a workplace where authenticity and open communication are valued.

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Gina
Host
00:00
All right. So, lauren, tell us who you are, where you’re coming to us from and a little bit about what you’re going to talk about today.
Lauren
Interviewee
00:10
I am a communication, interpersonal communication in the workplace wonk, as well as a public speaking and presentation skills expert. I’m coming at you from Edmonton, alberta, canada, currently blanketed in smoke, but hey, that’s okay right now and my the whole focus on my work is helping people communicate better verbally. That’s an area that I specialize in quite strongly and that really is whether they’re up in front of a room giving presentations or having meetings and workplace communications. It’s very and very much focused on the workplace. So I came to it, partially because I, when I was in, when I was still in the library world, because I am a recovering librarian, I always I always.
Gina
Host
01:05
It’s so funny because I just was having a conversation with my daughter’s nanny and I was like, honestly, the library is the answer to so many life’s issues. Just go to the library. That’s what I was saying. I was like just go to the library. There’s like always so many things you could take advantage of. So I’m pro library, pro librarian. I don’t know what to do with the librarian, but I’m very, very pro library.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:28
Working in libraries is very similar to working in large institutions like post-secondaries in government Very regimented, a lot of red tape, and I always worked on the back end. I was never a public service librarian but in the various, in the various roles that I had, I was the one that people would drag into meetings when other people weren’t getting along.
01:55
And it was yeah, it was very much a matter of people need to talk to one another. No one wants to talk to one another. Let’s bring in Lauren, because she can get people to talk to one another even when they are quite angry and irritated. So I saw a lot of the toxic communication going on in practice and also experienced a fair amount of it as well, because I worked in large bureaucratic institutions. And those are hot beds hot beds of toxic workplace culture.
Gina
Host
02:32
It kind of comes with the fairy-tory, Really even the library that sucks.
Lauren
Interviewee
02:37
Oh my, how many shanks do you want to dig out of my back?
Nicola
Host
02:43
Can they turn a book into a shank, Like what’s happening here?
Gina
Host
02:47
Laborers- can do anything. Yes, and I feel like you probably. I feel like you are hiding shanks in the book, like hollowing out the pages. What do you think?
Lauren
Interviewee
02:57
the spine is made out of.
Gina
Host
02:59
A shank. Now we know better. Now we know.
Nicola
Host
03:03
No better, do better.
Gina
Host
03:06
So maybe the library isn’t the answer to most of life’s issues.
Nicola
Host
03:10
Oh, apparently it is.
Lauren
Interviewee
03:11
You just kill people off of the library. It is Just. Don’t get into administration and management.
Gina
Host
03:18
Fair enough, so do you want to share a little bit about that?
Lauren
Interviewee
03:23
Yes, and, once again, not all of these were specific to the library world, but things that would often come up, especially within the sort of institutions that I worked in, which varied from regional libraries, which gives services to other libraries it’s like a meta library and post secondaries in the universities is that there was always a great deal of lip service paid to collaboration to everyone being equal to all.
03:54
Opinions are valid and everything you know at what you have to say matters and we support our employees, etc. Etc. Lots of lip service but very little, very little actual behavior that indicated that what they were saying was true and that was. That was one of the things that that really stood. That really stood out to me is that lots of these, especially the bigger institutions, operated in a very low trust environment, because the culture speak in the environment said one thing, but the actual actions and behaviors of people in it said something very different. And when that starts up, you start to get the total erosion of trust between employees and management. Yeah, and in order to get a really, yeah, in order.
Gina
Host
04:55
No, nicola loves the psychological safety aspect and it doesn’t sound like there was any psychological safety in these environments, and we actually you and I, nicola we came from a company that did just what Lauren was saying. They said one thing, but the actions didn’t back it up.
Nicola
Host
05:14
The reality of it was that they will. You know, I know we’ll get into it a bit more, because I know that our big topic is around kind of toxic positivity, right, and yeah, you know, that’s. That was one of the things that really impacted us at our toxic workplace was the fact that here’s all these fluffy fluffy nice things.
Gina
Host
05:41
Don’t fucking make a mistake. Work 24, seven. Shut the fuck up, follow blindly. Your opinion really doesn’t matter yeah so know your place.
Lauren
Interviewee
05:55
Yeah, so your place. And it’s unfortunate because when people are working in an environment, in an environment like that, they can’t contribute. They can’t contribute properly. Productivity gets stymied at every single level and it rarely is just affecting the entry level employees or anything else. Quite often you’ll see the same sort of issues up among senior level management as well. So you have stressed out, stressed out managers and executives who also feel very unsafe, like they’re constantly under the pressure to be perfect or under the or are going to be canned or somehow let go at any moment. And a lot of that gets buried under this toxic positivity, because you can’t let the cracks show, especially, particularly if it is in an environment where that culture of everyone has a say and we’re all equals here and etc. Etc. Especially if that is what is being pushed. Don’t let those cracks show, everyone clamps down and then you get this toxic, poxically positive messaging that is being backed up with very, very antisocial behavior.
Gina
Host
07:15
Yeah. Do you want to give us an, like a very clear cut example? Do you have one that comes to mind? I feel like you do, based on your facial expression. I thought you never asked.
Lauren
Interviewee
07:28
Absolutely do. A great example is from a place where I had a totally toxic vice director who would actively hit employees against one another behind their backs. Oh, I don’t know.
Nicola
Host
07:48
Okay. I had a manager like that too, and it was the fucking czar.
Lauren
Interviewee
07:55
And I think, in a way, that is how they create dependency on the manager, but that’s also how they ensure that employees don’t start to band together.
Gina
Host
08:05
And like form, like an uprising of some kind of rising.
Lauren
Interviewee
08:15
We were working in a unionized environment like it wasn’t a union thing. It’s that she didn’t want people on the same level basically trusting each other, because that would be a direct threat to her. So some things that would go on. There are comments like my door is always open. My door is always open. You really should tell me these things. I’m always listening. What would happen with the whole? My door is always open is first up.
08:42
She would pry into people’s personal lives. Well, we have to be honest with each other about what’s going on in our lives. If I’m going to, you know, really help you grow as a person and help you watch out for yourself and get ahead. And she was looking for leverage and I’ve experienced this with two bosses on my own, but a number of my clients have experienced this with with management as well. So the door was always open stuff. You had to treat it very carefully because if you told her too much about what was going on in your personal life, she would then use that to question whether or not you were working at your full capacity or if you were even capable to do so.
Gina
Host
09:27
So like I’m pretty like that that’s insanity. But like I was, I’m like pretty like I’ll tell some of my closer friends that I work with Maybe some of like some of what’s going on. Like Nicola always knows what’s going on, we like shared the gossip of each other’s lives and all of that. But I wouldn’t go to like my higher up and be like you know, my daughter is wedding, the bed or whatever the case is. She’s not, but like and it’s like really stressing me out, like I would never say that how would she get you to admit those things? And I feel like I’ve been in situations like that where you’re like, fuck, I just like told them my whole life story and I didn’t want to, and how did that even happen?
Nicola
Host
10:09
You, like share.
Gina
Host
10:10
Yeah, I’m not an overshare, but I feel like I’ve been in situations where people have been able to get me to start like over sharing and I don’t like. What is that?
Lauren
Interviewee
10:23
And a lot of it is that they’re very good at wielding things like silence, which is great. And here’s the thing the tools that help toxic people communicate very well are the same tools that help non toxic people communicate very well. It is not about the tool and the tactic. It is always about the intention of the person wielding it. So one thing to do is to just let it on the table and then look at you for a long time while saying nothing, and the difficulty with that is that most people are incredibly uncomfortable with silence. So we start to talk.
11:09
We fill again, we fill again, and then something comes up. Okay, tell me more about that. Oh really, well, tell me more about what’s going on there. And they get you to keep talking. A lot of direct eye contact, a lot of head nodding and pathetic gesturing and whatnot, and that helps to foster the trust, but it opens it kind of opens up floodgates. And if it’s with someone that you can trust, that’s great, but if it’s with someone who likes to basically gather ammunition on people, then you have to be very, very careful, very careful.
11:44
Now, the difficulty here is that you don’t always know what this person is doing until you catch him doing it. So it’s the red flag of my door is always open, is always tempered with how does this person use what I’ve told them afterwards, if I come to them with a problem? Has there ever been any kind of blowback against me, or has anyone else ever learned about this problem as well? Is then okay? The door is open because it’s information gathering, versus the door is open because, sincerely, I’m ready to be there. The other reason why I’m cautious with that expression is because it can be used as a way to put all of the onus on the communication onto the employee onto the person who’s lower in the hierarchy. My door is always open. Why didn’t you come and tell me? Because this is a non trusting environment and I don’t dare. But now it’s my fault.
Nicola
Host
12:42
You’re not going to have.
Lauren
Interviewee
12:43
So it’s a really great way.
Nicola
Host
12:45
Yeah, but no psychological safety and then no trust environments.
Lauren
Interviewee
12:51
Yeah, but my door is always open, nikola, you know this. It’s always open and you didn’t come to me and the thing is, you know there’s going to be repercussions, so it can turn into a really big head game, right then. And there, so very cautious, very cautious with that. The other thing that would be done was that there were always caveats. Who, with this, again, with this person in particular, there were always caveats with every statement where they would say the supportive thing.
13:25
But there’s a follow up. So a great follow up and this was day one of the job Was. You know, of course we really want to make sure are the guy who runs this department. This was a department within a post secondary institution. The guy who runs this department is a total workaholic. Like he will send emails at two o’clock in the morning. He works constantly. That’s. That really is just him. He’s weird that way. No one expects our employees to do this and you know, like I always say that, when, when time is, when it’s your time to go home, we want to make sure you go home. We know you have a family, but you know, so many people here just love what they do so much that they do choose to stay later. You know, I tell them not to. I tell them they’re supposed to go home, but they, they, you know, they just keep staying.
Nicola
Host
14:17
Yeah.
Gina
Host
14:18
Oh, they love, they love the library so much.
Lauren
Interviewee
14:24
Love what they do so much, all right. So if you don’t, you don’t love what you do.
Gina
Host
14:33
I don’t like this. No, it’s Richard yeah.
Lauren
Interviewee
14:39
Yeah, it’s um, but it’s very, very effective and it works really well. Because of that power disparity between the manager and between the employee, it’s always risky for someone lower on a hierarchy to speak up or to speak their mind or to disagree with their manager or whatever. And it doesn’t matter again, where on the hierarchy you are, it’s always riskier when you’re communicating up the ladder. So people, especially people who are not particularly experienced you know they might be, this might be their their first real job, or however you want to put it or they’re younger or they’re in some way of a lower status than others in the group. They are probably not going to catch it for a while. The assumption is often there’s something wrong with me, but then it becomes this power differential. So it’s really easy to prey on people who are much lower in the hierarchy through these communication tactics, because it’s simply riskier for them to speak up. Why didn’t you come to me? My door is always open because I will be punished. Yeah, well, then it becomes that.
Nicola
Host
15:55
I think that’s the big thing, right is? There’s just this unspoken rule that you know, you kind of just, especially in a toxic work environment. Right, in a good one, obviously not, but in that toxic work environment there’s just this unspoken rule that there is going to be a repercussion for something and you just know it’s coming. You just don’t know what it is. And I think that’s what really causes that terror, right is?
Lauren
Interviewee
16:21
it’s like my Do I dare, Do I say, what do I do? And when it’s couched in that toxically positive verbiage that tends to protect the people up the ladder A lot more?
Gina
Host
16:43
So what was, like your final straw that made you decide like I can’t do this anymore. I want to like go out on my own and do what you’re now doing.
Lauren
Interviewee
16:55
Well, the final straw was not a toxically positive environment. It was that I was simply getting more fulfillment working with people on the communication side of things, in the public speaking things and the interpersonal workplace dialogue stuff, than I was from the librarian work. I liked that better. I was able to very I was able to navigate the toxically positive stuff and the outright toxically negative stuff for a long time, partially because I knew what was going on and partially because I could play the game. So along that stuff I was like, yeah, I know what you’re doing and I’m not playing into it. So how would you handle it then? By being unfailingly polite. Unfailingly polite, very neutral, very bland.
Gina
Host
17:51
But don’t you think that dulled your spirit a little bit? Didn’t that kind of come out in a different way, like because that’s what I ended up doing? It where me and Nicola, like I just stopped interjecting, I stopped with all opinions. I just kind of sat and listened and I felt dead inside.
Lauren
Interviewee
18:08
In those environments absolutely. And like the spot that I was in with that, with that boss who would just once again set people against each other and everything else, I only lasted one year. The average length of time that people on the project that I was on would last was six months. That was the average turnaround, yeah, and like it kind of became the little tiny team that I was part of. I kind of became their buffer after a while because again, I knew it was going on and I was the one who could up front handle it. But I went home and cried Absolutely.
Gina
Host
18:44
Yeah, that’s right, that’s terrible.
Lauren
Interviewee
18:47
It’s terrible. No one would be like that. So I found I found somewhere else and where I worked at. After that I stayed for nine years because it was. It was the opposite.
Nicola
Host
18:57
Like it was the opposite.
Lauren
Interviewee
18:59
Yeah, totally. It was genuinely supportive environment, even when that organization was going through some tough times, and it really really did. It was totally different, and so I stayed there for a long time until my until the business that I run now kind of overtook everything. But in terms of in terms of dealing with it, you can’t deal with it long term and like, like you said, keep your soul intact, it’s going to get away at you, but it does start to really show up.
19:33
People who stay long, long term in these environments tend to be very competitive. They tend to be able to thrive off of a bit of adversity. They like a challenge, they might even like a bit of fight and, again, that’s not a bad personality thing, but as long as you challenge it in a good way. But after a while, people do put up walls, and you know again, though, the sort of walls that people would have to put up, it would lead very quickly. Many of my clients were experiencing burnout. They were told that they needed to work on their communication. We’re sending you to a communication coach because your communication is bad and it’s like isn’t. It sounds like the environment is next.
Gina
Host
20:20
So what do you do when someone gets sent to you but then you’re like, oh wait, it’s not like you’re fine at communicating, it’s do you have those situations? But it’s like everyone else around you needs to come to me.
Lauren
Interviewee
20:32
It’s rarely a situation where everyone else around you needs to come to me, and if it is a situation like that, then the problem is usually the person themselves. If they’re experiencing everyone, it’s time to look in the mirror. Not everyone is a cycle, no, and that has certainly happened. But the big thing there is learning these strategies for deflecting things like prying comments, for understanding when this person is like it’s almost charting the person’s behavior against their communications. So when boss X says this thing, what are the outcomes of that? How do they act towards people after they do that? Okay, what does this thing really mean when they’re saying it? Okay, now you know what they actually means. You respond accordingly to what they actually mean and you strategize this sucker, you strategize the communication.
21:30
Again, if they’re needing to do this constantly throughout the day, then they might need to look at a different workplace. And the hard thing is, is this kind of communication and this kind of behavior can become embedded in the culture? Yeah, so that’s why. That’s why, very often, I say watch out for, watch out for those red flags, those statements, if they are not being backed up with concrete behavior. That says that they say what they mean, if they are saying these statements, but no one trusts each other. Then you might want to reevaluate your workplace options.
Gina
Host
22:14
Right yeah, so how? Why would someone be sent to you? Like can you give us an example like why would someone be sent to you for communication coaching? Like, is it usually they’re higher up, that’s like you do good work, but I think you could benefit from learning how to communicate more effectively, or what does that usually look like?
Lauren
Interviewee
22:32
very very often. Most people who come to me come to me voluntarily. If someone is being sent to me as like oh no, this communication is a really difficult skill to work on and it involves a lot of soul searching and self evaluation and can be very uncomfortable. But if someone has been, let’s say, given like here is a pot of money, please use it for this kind of coaching. Or if someone’s been putting touch with me directly, it is usually either because they do they tend to have a lot of subject matter expertise but they’re not very good at presenting it to people who don’t speak their language and I help them translate that language or because they’re struggling in their role and they’re looking for ways to help them struggle less.
Gina
Host
23:26
This is so interesting Because yesterday we did an interview with a data scientist who was working in natural language sciences and that’s like the opposite end of what you do, like you do the person to person and he’s doing person to computer, and it’s like you’re kind of doing the same thing but very different at the same time. So it’s like kind of interesting that we had both sides of the coin so close together. That’s, that’s fun.
Lauren
Interviewee
23:56
Yeah, natural language doesn’t mean non strategic. Right, that’s a big and that’s a big thing to remember is that there’s often this assumption or belief that if you’re being good at this, if you’re authentic, if you’re a really good communicator, then you do it off the top of your head. Really good communicators plan and strategize and think about who they’re working with and about what’s going on in this conversation and what is the goal. And, okay, knowing the people in the room, what are we going to need to do in order to move the needle in the direction that it has to go? Very, very strategic.
24:37
You need to speak human natural language portion and it’s funny because my librarian brain was firing off like crazy because natural language search terms. It’s something that, as a profession, we geek out about really hard. But but in terms of that actual communication stuff, it’s figuring out how to maneuver in the situation and when you are dealing with a toxic environment. That strategic maneuvering is really important for your own security and to be able to operate within it. Sometimes you can be working with people who are just oh man, you talk to them and you think they’re absolutely retching, but then you hear that that’s, they’re just kind of clueless and that’s just how they talk and you know what, now that I know that it doesn’t bug me as much, I can get around it. I know, talk to Jim frames and everything that happens as if it was a catastrophe in the world was ending. This is my business partner.
Gina
Host
25:36
That’s what he’s like. It’s his name Jim, it’s not, it’s Joseph. So, oh, but it’s just. Yeah, it sounds like Jim, because it’ll be like oh, there was a new, a news article about retail, something, something. He’s like we’re going to go bankrupt. I’m like what like? How do you like? How does that? How do you go from like a news article about one of our clients, like maybe not doing well or closing stores, to we’re going to go bankrupt? Like there’s, like there’s no, there’s like I need you to help me to connect those dots. Like maybe they won’t be as big of a client of ours, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to go bankrupt. Like there’s nothing. You know, there’s a lot of steps that need to be done. There’s a lot of steps that need to happen in between. But yeah, he like, he’s like the sky is falling all the time, trick and little.
Lauren
Interviewee
26:24
Emotional communication response, and we all have emotional responses. We should. Those who don’t are probably not fit for human consumption. But it’s you know, it’s a matter you start. You can probably figure out what is Joseph speaking from his. Is he’s speaking from his panic brain right now he’s speaking out of fear.
Gina
Host
26:44
Right, he’s speaking out of fear.
Lauren
Interviewee
26:48
This is how he reacts. He has big reactions, he gets them out, everything’s going to go awful, and then you knock them off the cliff, and that’s how it goes, and if you can find that kind of balance, then you can make your way through Very productively. It really it really is. Though, like I said, it really does become that when there is no trust, when there is no consistency in the behavior, when nothing means what is being said, that’s when the issues really do crop up, and I’m very I always watch out for when it’s being couched in nice, because going against nice means you are not nice and now you’re the bad one.
Gina
Host
27:36
But usually couched in nice, isn’t nice?
Lauren
Interviewee
27:42
Correct. That’s why it’s couched. If the person’s actually maintaining that, I would rather speak with an authentic asshole than an inauthentic swing heart.
Gina
Host
27:55
Right here. So I this is like speaking to my soul, because when I email people it is very like there’s the information, it’s very direct, like sometimes I even forget to say hi so-and-so, like I have to. I had to retrain myself to go back and say like hi, lauren, like, because if you asked me a question I would just answer it immediately. That’s the information. I have it. Here you go. Now I can check that off my to-do list. So I had to retrain myself over the years to go back and be like hi, lauren, hi Nicola, you know, like good question here.
28:30
So much for reaching out, yeah, or whatever. But even when I try to fluff my emails like it’s I’m really, I like I’m I don’t know I’m capable of fluffing unless, like you and I have like a really good, like rapport, like you know, I don’t know if I have to type out or if I’m not able to. So that does me a disservice because people, even though there’s obviously everyone’s like, oh, there’s no tone in email or text, people read it regardless. They read it however they want. So my emails tend to be off putting because I have a hard time, I guess, having a poker face and poker fingers, because I’ll just be like oh, I have a hard time like having like a buffer.
Lauren
Interviewee
29:20
And what you mentioned, where people will read it in whatever tone they want. It’s called prosody. It’s like you know how music has a melody. Yes, it has prosody, which is the up and down in the intonation and everything else of what you’re saying. And it is so critically important for us understanding what the other person actually means that when we can’t hear it, our brains automatically insert it. Your brain does, my brain does, everyone’s brain does this. They have to. So there, if it’s just.
29:55
Where is it kind of learning the basic mechanics of communication etiquette? When is it appropriate to engage in chit chat? Does this person like to engage in chit chat? Does that help them along? How do I get to the point quickly without seeming abrupt or rude? And sometimes what can help there is reading the email back in several different tones of voice. So think to yourself if I was pissed off, if I was having a shitty day, how would this email read? And then you do it out loud as if you were having a shitty day, Like, okay, so if the person I email isn’t a bad mood, that might be how they take it, If it’s just normal to neutral.
Gina
Host
30:34
Yeah, yeah, because I feel like.
30:37
Make it out loud. Cause, like I feel like I have read people’s emails and in the past I would be like, oh my God, this fucking bitch, and I’d like send it to like a colleague or whoever, and they’d be like this is not a bad email. And then, like you know, 20 minutes later I’ll like reread and I’ll be like, oh no, it’s really not that bad. Like my initial reaction was like, oh my God, this person is such a piece of shit. Like I hate this person.
31:02
And then, like somebody else needs to like check me and be like this is actually like what’s wrong with the email? Yeah, like there’s nothing wrong with this email. Like just relax and that was just Whatever your headsets affecting it, right. Like I was probably stressed, I was probably feeling some type of way I didn’t want to deal with the issue at the time, like it’s more personal than it is about the email or the communication you’re actually you actually have in front of you. Cause once I had like that buffer to kind of like relax and go back to it and really read it and not just like skim it and then assign what I was feeling emotionally onto that email. It’s usually never as bad as I originally thought.
Lauren
Interviewee
31:44
I’m like oh yeah, okay yeah, this is not, this is okay, yeah, but and when you do things out loud, all of a sudden it’s like you’re activating another part of your brain. You’re like, oh, maybe they are freaking at me.
Gina
Host
32:00
Yeah, exactly. Maybe, they aren’t.
Lauren
Interviewee
32:04
And then I tend to go with the best, most socially acceptable interpretation of what’s in front of me, because that basically just assumes good intent, which is something you can do when there is a trusting relationship, when there is trust and by trust I don’t mean friendly Sure, because you can trust a manager and not be friends with them. You can trust a coworker and not particularly like them. It’s not about how you feel socially towards the person, it’s in a professional context. Can we have an upfront conversation, understand each other’s meanings and not take slight at what we’re saying to one another? For no reason Do we feel threatened by each other. Don’t need to be friends If that’s if you don’t feel threatened by each other.
Nicola
Host
32:59
And I think that’s where the boundaries at our toxic workplace was really blurred, because everybody had to be in each other’s lives and very friendly and it was all interconnected. And then there were the repercussions, and then there was the toxic positivity, and then on top of that there was this it was just layer by layer, layer by layer.
Lauren
Interviewee
33:22
Why are we going for drinks? Why are we going for drinks? Because I don’t wanna go for a drink with you. We share no interests. Let’s keep it in the workplace, be very nice to each other here and then leave each other alone. But those, nikola, the comment on boundaries is straight on, and that is why the like. Another red flag for me is everyone here is equal. Everyone’s opinions are equally valid. No, they’re not. In some organizations very flat organizations they’ll be closer to that but there is still a decision maker somewhere in there whose opinion matters more than others. Does that mean they are a more valuable human being? No, but it means they have a different level of authority and responsibility within the company, the more accountability might trump others Exactly.
Gina
Host
34:13
But usually those people have the experience and knowledge to assume those positions. That’s what you would imagine. So not to reuse the word, but imagine me and Nikola’s surprise when key decision makers in our company had zero corporate experience before in their life and they’re now COOs and CEOs. That’s bad, yeah, yeah.
Nicola
Host
34:42
Yeah, and there’s like we’ve spoken about this before, but there’s nothing wrong with not having experience.
Gina
Host
34:49
Like you’ve got to live somewhere, right, yeah, exactly, but you should have thought of the top. Yeah, but what makes you able to do, what makes you able to be a COO when you don’t even know how to budget properly? Like these are issues. These are major issues. They are issues, yeah, and, like God forbid, I would stand up for what I knew to be a wise business decision because I outranked you and experienced age and just expertise in this area. I was told I was too competitive and Nikola was always told like she was like a bitch and you were a little bit, but that’s because you were sleeping like two hours a night, because they like overworked you, like an insane person. Yeah, but it was like, I think, for me. I can only speak for myself, but, nikola, you might agree, I was always leaving the workday frustrated, like frustrated beyond belief. I just didn’t leave the workday.
35:51
Well, that was yeah, you just never stopped working. You were like I’m going to double down and work like 36 hours straight, with like a four hour nap in between, my next 36 hour shift.
Lauren
Interviewee
36:02
Right, we’re going to fix this by doing it more and harder, yeah, harder.
Nicola
Host
36:07
But, nikola, take time off. Please take the time off, ok. And then you’re on vacation and you’re literally pulling over on the side of the road on your vacation to solve problems.
Lauren
Interviewee
36:20
Yeah. So when they said, take time off, we need you to take time off, we want you to take time off, did they follow that up with actions that allowed you to actually do so? Nope, then they didn’t mean it. No, they didn’t. They had followed up, but you still insisted on going into your email at 2 o’clock in the morning. Then that’s a different problem. Right, right Again, it’s always that monitoring of do they back up what they say? And if the answer is yes, then you can start to look at internally at yourself and say, maybe I am the problem. But if the answer is consistently no and it isn’t no just with you, it’s no with other people as well Now you know you’ve got a toxic situation.
Nicola
Host
37:07
You know, what was really interesting is when the CEO took time off. No one could contact her. It was contact either me or the CEO.
Lauren
Interviewee
37:24
Yeah, rules for you, but not for me.
Gina
Host
37:26
Yeah, yep, yeah, it was just yeah. I think the company that we’re referring to is a perfect example of we’re going to tell you a bunch of things but we’re going to do the exact opposite in our actions, which left me, as we said in the beginning, left me consistently frustrated, consistently at odds. I felt like my whole team didn’t like me. I remember that was one of the first things I said to Nikola. I was like, oh my god, I made so and so cry, totally did nothing wrong. She was just like a sensitive, overly sensitive person who had it out against me before she even knew me.
Nicola
Host
38:09
She had it out against me too.
Gina
Host
38:10
She got us both yeah she didn’t like either of us. I remember that was one of our first offline conversations off work time, because I was like, oh my god, I just made so and so cry. And now I think my whole team hates me, which was my gut reaction. And guess what? That was right, because she ended up getting me fired. So it’s like I should have listened to my gut more and no matter what I did to try to make it better with her, she just did not like me from the get-go. Instead of looking at me as a resource for someone who could teach her things, she just did not like me and she said that everything I did was too harsh.
38:49
I was like a bulldozer, and it’s like, yes, I can be firm in my convictions when I know better. It’s not because I want to make your life difficult, it’s because I’ve been here before. I know how your way is going to work and that’s not the right way to do it and I have a better, easier, softer way. Let’s just try it this way. That was not OK, apparently.
Lauren
Interviewee
39:12
Yeah, and with many situations like that, especially when you get into the need that you have to start protecting yourself and this is going to sound like again more clinical and clinical with the communication stuff as I go on getting things in writing is imperative To follow up on our conversation earlier today. This is what I understand, bullet point, bullet point, bullet point. Please let me know. If there’s anything here that I have missed, send it out. You’re not sending it out for your edification, you’re sending it out to set up a record to protect yourself.
Gina
Host
39:45
It’s a covering your app maneuver. I’m a big fan of that too.
Lauren
Interviewee
39:48
Yes, in conversations, the simple act of taking notes while you’re talking to someone will often especially if they are highly manipulative will often get them to stop and say, ok, maybe I can’t get away with this.
Nicola
Host
40:09
I take notes on, like I am an avid note taker. You are, me too. I’m like avid note taker, like I’ve got more notes than I think I know what to do with and then I’ve got to consolidate them. That’s a whole separate hot mess. But, anyway, I had a toxic manager who was wow, just so many things I could say, but anyway, regardless of if I was taking notes or not, he would just say stupid shit all the fucking time.
Gina
Host
40:47
I feel like some, especially men, are just living clueless.
Nicola
Host
40:50
Yeah, I feel like it’s better if you’re writing it down. He’s not.
Lauren
Interviewee
40:53
He’s not tempering down his crazy yeah and I would say that probably that’s an asshole as opposed to a manipulator.
Gina
Host
41:02
Yeah, I would say that’s just a clueless idiot.
Lauren
Interviewee
41:07
Yeah, leaders know, they know that they’re working you, yeah, and if you demonstrate that you are someone who pays attention and is not going to be easily worked, they will quickly stop. Hmm, most of the time, but taking down notes, that’s one of that’s one of those things followed up by if something sounds really odd. Sorry, I just wanted to catch that. Could you repeat that for me? Hmm, so what?
Gina
Host
41:36
and write it down when you’re in a remote setting.
Lauren
Interviewee
41:42
Um, much honestly, I find that remote is much the same as In-person, depending on how comfortable people are in camera. So remote, I always tell people and this is because I take tons of notes as well I have to if I’m going to keep track of everything that I’ve agreed to in conversations Um, but I will let people know. So just you know. I look away from the camera for a little bit.
42:08
I, I’m not ignoring you. I’ve got my notes open on this other monitor over here, so I’m just taking notes and every now and then I’ll let them know. Could you just hold off for a minute? My you know fingers need to catch up with my brain and I take the notes.
Gina
Host
42:23
Super beneficial. I would have been like if I had said like you know, go give me a second, I just want to write down a couple notes that think that you just said, or whatever, even if they can’t see you, like sometimes people wouldn’t always like use like you wouldn’t know if they were actually like even there, because they would like not have their camera on and, of course, not participate in some, some cases. So I think if it was verbally said, oh, I’m taking notes, like in a kind way, it might have kind of curtailed some issues. Yeah, yeah.
42:53
I agree.
Lauren
Interviewee
42:54
Yeah, it can’t, it really really can’t. It’s that notion of is this person paying attention to what’s going on? Are they being diligent? And sometimes it can mean that the, the, the toxic individual that you’re working with will become wary or Not want to work with you because they can’t Work you as well, and they know it. My personal experience has been they start to not try to pull this crap with you and for a number of my clients when they started doing this sort of thing.
43:27
Sorry, could you repeat that back to me? I just want to make sure I have it down for accuracy. Okay, here’s the follow-up Um, strategizing what they were going to be saying. Going into meetings right down and I often recommend, if you are going into one of these meetings and you know that it’s going to be hard, I will say, like, have a list of tangents that you will not go on, or directions that if the conversation goes here, you’re going to redirect it back. So have your own flags on your cheat sheet walking into that meeting, because when you’re worked up, when your emotions are worked up, when you’re feeling flustered with a toxic workplace individual, you’re not always able to notice those things in the moment. Um, I’m trying, I’m sorry, I can’t remember, uh, nicola or Gia, if it was um, one of you who said that you find yourself just spilling everything and not even realizing that was me. I found myself.
Gina
Host
44:24
Incom, it like and being like wait, like I’m not, I’m a pretty private person to most people, like I don’t really spill most of my like familial secrets or whatever, like childhood trauma. But then I’d be like, oh my god, I just like overshared and I don’t even know how that happened. Like that that I’ve. Yeah, I’m like, why did I say that? I’m so weird.
Lauren
Interviewee
44:48
Yeah, and it’s really hard to catch yourself in the moment. So for someone like yourself, my recommendation would be on that, on your notepad, you have written on the side things you will not discuss, just like don’t talk about dog kid, whatever. And if you find yourself going there, it’s a reminder the paper is doing the it’s. It’s like it’s like you’ve got your own little Communication coach beside you and it’s nudging you in the ribs and you’re like oh, I started to go down there, yeah.
45:20
Yeah, I mean it’s and it helps you refocus with the other. Yeah, finding tools that help you, that do the thinking for you. You’ve done the thinking ahead of the meeting, because in the meeting it’s going to be really hard, that’s true.
Gina
Host
45:37
That is so true, like even if you know what the meeting is about. Like even if, like Like where nickel and I met, they were part of this EOS system, so there was like you could see what the meeting like, what the main topics were going to be at the meeting. Um, you know usually a little bit beforehand, but sometimes people wouldn’t Necessarily update it until, like, they’re actually at the meeting. So there would be some like outliers that you’d be like, why are we talking about that? But, um, if I think, if I had made notes, it would have been much better for me, because I would have, like I noticed that sometimes I talk a lot, even though in my personal life I’m not a big talker Like my partner’s, like you don’t talk that much. Like when we’re home, I just, you know, go about my business. I’m not a loud or big talker.
46:26
But in these meetings I feel like and even in my meetings now, I feel like I consistently repeat myself, and it’s like like I repeat myself, but with slightly different language, and I hate that. So, so, like what? What could I do to help myself doing that? It’s like I said it, like I, and I also like a firm believer that if you ask or say something once and you do it again After that, it’s almost abusive, right, like you say something twice. Um, if you continue to harp on it, it’s almost abusive because it’s like, all right, I fucking got it, lady. Like shut the hell up, um. So what would? What tools would you suggest for someone who’s like me in that regard?
Lauren
Interviewee
47:06
So first, question Are you more likely to repeat yourself when you’re trying to make a point, or is it more something that you do when you’re working through an idea or a problem?
Gina
Host
47:20
I would say it happens in both scenarios because I’m I want to fill the silence. But the thing is is in my personal life I’m fine with silence, like I’m fine with comfortable silence, but it’s like back to what you said in the beginning Most people don’t like silence, so they will start talking and potentially Oversharing or, in my case, being repetitive. To feel the blank.
Lauren
Interviewee
47:42
Yeah and personal and private are different. People act differently at work than they do at home because it’s a different location with different relationships and everything else, and that is something that you know. Instead of saying, well, I’m, I don’t do this at home and darn it, darn it, why am I doing this here? Cheese Just say this is what I do here and it’s fine. I need to watch for it. Um, I would recommend that first up, when you catch yourself, pay a minute, like like, spend a few brain cells. You kind of almost have to split your brain in two to do this, but you, you devote a few brain cells to paying attention to what you’re feeling at the moment. Am I irritated? Am I agitated? Am I really wound up? How? What am I thinking about the other person? What’s my heart doing? And then you’ll start to notice, almost like the physical Sensations that are accompanying this repeating, repeating, repeating.
Gina
Host
48:40
I’m willing to bet that it’s when you’re wound up it like the most recent example I was having a virtual meeting with a client and um it there had been a project that we just came off of that was miss mismanaged by everyone involved, like not not Like I had some blame in it, but there was also, I would say like I had 25% blame and 75% was the client’s, because I’m only as good as the information given to me.
49:08
So, um, and I was trying to explain, like why it happened that way, and I and I could. I guess my underlying feeling was they didn’t give a shit about why it happened that way, they were just annoyed that it happened that way and it’s like Like I didn’t think they were understanding my side. So I kept like kind of I think I was getting wound up because I was like it’s not, like essentially, I was trying to be like this is not entirely my fault, like we need to like each bear the brunt of what happened. Um, and I just don’t think it went over well, like I would have been better.
Lauren
Interviewee
49:44
Yeah, it probably didn’t. So like recognizing when you’re likely to be doing these things is very handy because then when you start to feel yourself Getting agitated, for some people it’s it’s almost like their thoughts start spinning. For me it’s very physical, like I get Dancing almost. Then it’s like you can recognize before it happens. All right, when it’s starting to happen. I’m starting to do this. I need to pay attention to not doing this right now. I’m wound up. I know I’m going to start repeating myself, so I’m going to consciously monitor what I say and then bringing yourself down. I like getting into the silence. I often do it through counted breathing, so anytime someone is talking before I speak, it’s in For two, out for three, in for two, and then I speak and it’s not difficult to hide it.
Gina
Host
50:47
Yeah.
Lauren
Interviewee
50:50
Okay, yeah, like you can do this in the course of a con, but you’re forcing yourself to stop and it’s not even stops. You can think it’s a pause. It’s not even pausing so you can think of what to say. It’s to settle and to kind of let your brain catch up and to just be in the moment and then speak again. The counting helps people get away. It gives it’s almost like it gives you something else to focus on in that second and it’s quick, so it helps to bring you down. The other thing I would recommend is be very, very clear on what the goal of the meeting actually is. So a problem happened, as you said. The client didn’t really care what the like whose problem it was, just that it was a problem. It’s pretty normal for clients.
Gina
Host
51:39
They don’t give a crap. They’ll never take ownership and I’ll always be there and they’ll never take ownership.
Lauren
Interviewee
51:45
So no, is the purpose of this meeting to figure out who is to blame, or is it to figure out how to solve the problem?
Gina
Host
51:53
Right and it’s for me and it might be either. Well, I think, I think just naturally I’m someone who wants people to acknowledge when they mess up, because I will acknowledge when I mess up. But that is not reality. But I think innately that’s what I try to do in situations like this and I don’t think it served me well because, like they would say something and then I would like challenge it, I’d be like okay. So I’m curious then, if it’s usually only x, this x-way, why was it done y-way last time with us? Like why was that? You know, I asked questions about it. But I feel like my questions are underlying, like I got you, like there’s an element of like see, you guys fucked up. I think in the back of my mind and just innately I don’t even know I’m doing it, there’s that part of me that’s like, see, this isn’t all my fault, but I don’t. I don’t think.
Lauren
Interviewee
52:51
I don’t think I even realize I’m doing that, because that is probably because you’re heated up here in the moment, right, right and also like that’s a very human who want to do that. It’s very human. But I do actually have a couple of really tangible strategies I teach these a lot, especially in my keynote talks that really help with this. One of them is depersonalizing the language, and this doesn’t mean dehumanizing the language. You’re depersonalizing it. You’re avoiding the use of personal pronouns no you, no me, no they, no we, no I. You pull that out and then all the only way then you can talk about the problem is by talking about the problem. So I’m curious in this situation, why was this application carried out in this manner instead of? So I’m curious, why did you choose to to do it this way when it was done that way last time?
Gina
Host
53:53
Yeah, it’s a little, it’s so, it’s so subtle, but it doesn’t make a huge. It makes a huge difference because, like you said, you start to get dancey, like I start to forget to breathe, so then I’m like, I get like, and then I’m like, and it’s visible and people can tell that I just yeah, they can tell I’m getting flustered, so it’s like it’s so yeah.
54:20
So instead I could have said okay, that’s that’s awesome, like that’s awesome to know that moving forward will only, it will only be done this way. So so then the question is why was it done this way this time? Okay, yeah, yeah. Why was? It done this way. What was different?
Lauren
Interviewee
54:42
What was different? It’s not. Why did you? It’s not, why did they? It’s not. Well, this is how I do things, and it’s like you take the problem, you pull it out of people and you stick it in the middle of the table where both of you can poke at it together instead of pointing fingers at each other because that’s not helpful. No, and this is a really great way, you know, thinking about the toxic stuff. This is also a really great way of deflecting people’s ability to make you responsible for the weird manipulative shit they might be doing. Yeah, yeah, because now nothing is you or me or I or whatever, everything, like there’s no pronouns. So it’s. It can be a. Really. It can also be.
55:31
People who misuse this will use it to avoid taking responsibility for everything. So, like any of these tools can be abused. I will be straight up the tool is neutral. I do not encourage people to use this strategy of depersonalization to avoid taking responsibility for shit they did wrong. Like that’s not cool, grow up. But it’s a really great way of bringing down that tension. Even if you’re the one who’s getting caught under the collar and dancing and feeling defensive, it’s okay to say I am feeling defensive, like in your head. I am feeling defensive. I’m only going to use I’m not going to use any more personal pronouns. I need to like get out of this headspace.
56:13
In this conversation, another great one is speaking relentlessly in the future tense. This is where people are like oh, my school grammar and English lessons. I hate it so much, but it’s really useful. And this comes down like I could be gone for hours about classical rhetoric and how it all came up from that. But when we’re in conversation very often especially workplace conversations, where there’s a problem If people are speaking in the past tense, it’s often because they’re trying to assign blame or we’re trying to forensically figure out what happened, like in this case.
56:49
Okay, why was it done that way in the past? That’s because you need to figure out what the thought process there was. That’s okay, but this is how we’ve always done things. You know we never used to do it like that. Why would they make that decision? All of that is very blame gamey. So past tense talk can become blame game very quickly.
57:12
Present tense talk is quite interesting If people are harping on about something that’s irritating them, or they’re mad at someone, or there’s a problem and there’s lots of. We do it like this here. This is what’s happening right now. Very often what they’re doing is either defending current actions or they’re trying to separate them the people who are doing things the right way, people like us do things like this with those people who do it all wrong, and it’s probably their fault. So present tense talk is used to divide people into camps. If you want to see this in action, pay attention to political speeches. They are almost always in present tense talk because they’re dividing people into camps. Future tense is the way that we speak when we’re trying to solve a problem. What would happen if we did this.
Gina
Host
58:06
Okay, yes, what would happen if we did this?
Lauren
Interviewee
58:08
Okay, what would happen if we did this? Okay, so you know, you’re right, that is how things were done in past years. This year it’s looking a little bit different. What are our options moving forward? Okay, yeah, so that thing came up because of XYZ. This is where we want to take this issue. So how are we going to get there? What if we tried XYZ? What if we looked at ABC? That’s future tense talk and it’s speaking basically in the language of possibilities and the and solutions. Now you might get people I’m guessing that Joseph is one of them Was it Joseph, your partner.
Gina
Host
58:47
Joseph’s my business partner. He doesn’t have anything client facing, but yeah, I do, I’m guessing.
Lauren
Interviewee
58:53
Joseph will do this. He will speak in future tense that he’ll catastrophize everything. Yeah, oh for sure You’re gonna go to hell. Okay, joseph, sure. So it doesn’t all go to hell, how would, if we try this Right?
59:08
So some people will use future tense to catastrophize, but when you doggedly stay in future tense and it’s still that so here is a potential solution how could we carry out that solution? What might the results of that solution looks like If that solution doesn’t pan it out? What are our risk mitigations? All of that is saying here’s how we’re gonna work with it, and it pulls people out of negative headspace. It pulls them out of that blame game focused speech and keeps them on track for toxic people, for toxic situations. It ensures that you are not dwelling in toxic conversation, because now, when you’re speaking productively about something that needs to be done at work and that you’re going to do, darn it, as soon as you walk out of this room, there isn’t that much space for them to be picking at you and pulling you apart and manipulating you and making you feel like garbage. So you don’t allow the conversation to go there and again with the notes, with the cheat sheet, because it’s hard to think about this stuff in the moment.
01:00:12
I will write down key phrases that will help me get going. So this blank happened. How will we move forward over the next two weeks? What’s our next step? I’ll write down things like what’s our next step, how will we do ABC, and I have those on the page so that when I’m spinning and I’m like no, we need to pull this into future tense, I can look at my prompt and basically parrot it out at people and get it going that way. Yeah, practice this stuff. Practice it in low stakes conversations friends, family, colleagues, you actually like. You have to practice this sort of thing because it needs to become a bit of muscle memory and you can turn it into games like how long can I have a conversation with I don’t know, with my mom, and I don’t use a single personal pronoun.
Gina
Host
01:01:13
I love this idea, though, because it’s like you’re playing a secret game.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:01:17
How long can I have a conversation with Nikola and only be in the present tense? At some point Nikola is going to be like what?
Gina
Host
01:01:25
are you doing? Oh, nikola would know exactly, because I guarantee you the second we get off this call, we’re going to talk and we’re going to both be trying to do future tense with each other.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:01:38
So you play with it that way. You play with it and that develops your ear to hear for these kinds of conversation triggers and then your ability to respond without it being so hard. This isn’t going to fix things overnight. It’s like I said, this is a skill that you develop, but this is part of the armor as well and part of the communication skills that can help people navigate the toxic workplaces or the hard conversations or the times when we ourselves are not at our best, because the kid was wetting the bed all night, or I’m looking at long-term care for my parents and that’s where my head is at and I can’t be as functional as I normally am. This helps in all those scenarios.
Gina
Host
01:02:24
So how did you really hone in on doing this? Is it because you were sort of in linguistics or being a librarian? I feel like that’s part of the scope of library science. It’s kind of like studying just the written word, context, that kind of stuff. So it’s like, how did you really hone in on these and how did you learn that they were almost always beneficial?
Lauren
Interviewee
01:02:51
Part of it is a performance background, when you are involved in acting, when you do acting training, like I did, acting, radio work, dance all of that requires you to be sensitive to the emotional impact of words and of intonation and of nonverbal communication and all of that.
01:03:09
So that helped to develop that emotional intelligence side of things which is very useful and is part of strategic communication. In my undergrad it was all about English language and classics, so basically read American language. Like you said in library studies that understanding how people think around information and use it and interpret it is an enormous part of that discipline. And from there I was very quickly like I kind of knit together this whole process and then in my job I needed to give training sessions over and over and over to a wide variety of libraries little, tiny, rural town libraries, mid-sized, mid-town libraries, that sort of thing. But the unifying factor is that no one wanted to be in those training sessions because they all hated the tools that I was training them on and I had to figure out how to get them to not hate the tools.
Nicola
Host
01:04:14
Hmm, makes sense.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:04:16
So you know, you go into one of these scenarios and for the first 20 minutes the best thing to do is to let them rant about how mad they are at their managers and at the tool vendor, and at the software and at the, and you sit and you listen to them and you go okay, how are we going to move it forward to the point where, oh shoot, I am so sorry, you’re allowed to leave that in there. This is the messy middle, my friends. The jig is up the stand is unstable.
Gina
Host
01:04:55
We all went on a little roller coaster ride with you there.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:05:03
And then I had to figure out how do I get people from a place of being very angry and often angry at me, because I am now the face of the thing they hate to be willing to listen and to converse with one another. And then, as my roles changed and continued, I would start to now get pulled into meetings where the reason I was there was because people would be willing to talk almost through me to each other, and so I would be a terrible therapist.
Gina
Host
01:05:36
I would be a terrible therapist.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:05:37
I would be a terrible therapist too, and it spun in to the work that I do now.
Gina
Host
01:05:43
That’s so cool. Why would you be a terrible therapist? I just want to know why you think you would be, because I’m a crier.
Nicola
Host
01:05:52
I would be a terrible therapist because I’m like I would be like what are you complaining?
Gina
Host
01:05:56
about. That’s not even that bad Like I would be the worst.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:06:02
I don’t know. I’m a huge marshmallow. I tend to assume the best of people until proven otherwise. And, honestly, all of these things, I used to be like, oh, you should be tougher, you should be tougher. But because I know I’m this way, I’ve chosen to see it as a bit of a superpower. Because I know I am this way, first up I can say, hey, wait a minute, you’re picking up on something, what’s going on here? And be able to figure out what’s going on in the dynamics fairly quickly. But also it means that I have to be strategic in my conversations, because that’s how I predict myself from getting sucked into the drama. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Gina
Host
01:06:46
So, oh my God, oh wait, Nicola. Now that we asked, we will answer. Why would you be a shitty therapist, or would you be a great therapist?
Nicola
Host
01:06:57
Oh, I would be a terrible therapist because I would tell you what you need to do to sort your life out. Same, that’s bullshit.
Gina
Host
01:07:04
I’m like sort it out, you and I were on the same wavelength because I’d be like, I’d be like, oh, you didn’t get your allowance this week, boo hoo.
Nicola
Host
01:07:11
Move forward, go get another job. Go get another job.
Gina
Host
01:07:14
Yeah, you couldn’t pay your bills. Get another fucking job. Yeah, I would be the worst bitch.
Nicola
Host
01:07:18
Please have you practiced gratitude today, because clearly you aren’t doing that. You spoiled brat.
Gina
Host
01:07:24
I would think you were a prist, me and Nicola would have like the least attended practice.
Nicola
Host
01:07:30
But like when it comes to psychologizing your friends, you know like I’m not terrible.
Gina
Host
01:07:36
No, you’re way better than me Because you’ve done it to me.
Nicola
Host
01:07:40
Hold on, let’s unpick this a little bit and then kind of regroup it. But if it were a job, oh my God, I would live the worst.
Gina
Host
01:07:52
Because I just don’t have time for stupid.
Nicola
Host
01:07:54
So if you’re coming to me and you’re like well, well, we know, and I’m like dude, I’m from a third world country with like Cromer, please Tell me you’ll send cute story, cute yeah.
Gina
Host
01:08:12
You and I have similar childhood trauma. That probably makes us that way, because like I used to be told as like it’s. You know an eight year old like pull up your bootstraps and just get it done. So it’s like that’s. That’s like what I grew up on, which is not at all okay to be telling like an eight and 10 year old that, but like that I’d probably be like spewing the same advice.
Nicola
Host
01:08:30
Character building Gina. It’s character Exactly yeah.
Gina
Host
01:08:34
You’re going to have to do whatever you don’t want to do.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:08:37
Is that there’s room for that as well, and when people trust you, you can be that way with them. You can be extremely straightforward, you can be very blunt, you can be as upfront as you like and if that’s consistent in your behavior, and you are also supportive when they need it and they can trust what you say and that you have their interests, and it’s like you know when to be that way and you can tell when they might need a hug, like sometimes people just need a hug and that’s it and then they’ll be okay. Sometimes they need a lot more than that and you should refer them to an actual therapist.
Nicola
Host
01:09:16
Which again I’m like what about therapy? But I’m also one of those I’m usually pretty good where I’m like do you just want me to come sit with you, I’ll bring wine.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:09:25
Yeah, yes, and that sort of thing means that you know she’s there, nikola’s there when I just need someone to sit with me and she’s also there to call me on my shit, when I need someone to call me on my shit and a manager can do that and not be toxic If someone comes in, I don’t know if that’s the sort of manager I am.
01:09:48
Yeah, someone comes in and says, look, I had to put my ancient, toothless, semi psychotic dog down yesterday. And you’re like, I met that dog, I fucking hated it, it was psychotic, good riddance. But you go. You know what? That’s really hard. I’m sorry. I get why you can’t be in this meeting and you give them that empathy in that space. And then another day, when they’re struggling for something else, you can come in and say you know what, no, no, no, we’re not doing this, not today, not today, sweetheart.
Nicola
Host
01:10:19
How are we?
Lauren
Interviewee
01:10:20
going to move forward. They still know that you can be really empathetic when it really matters. Yeah, yeah.
Gina
Host
01:10:27
All right. So, our time is kind of wrapping up, sadly, because this has been a very interesting conversation. And honestly like I feel like the flow of this couldn’t have been better from Melissa yesterday, with the data science about around that. What is it? Natural language?
Lauren
Interviewee
01:10:48
Natural language yeah.
Gina
Host
01:10:50
Yeah, To actually like dealing with people, Like it kind of just flows right.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:10:56
Yeah, and Nichola and I were like so we but then, when I was in, when I was in library school, and this is like because, once you, if you talk about librarians, it’s like calling everyone who works in a hospital a hospital or or a doctor, yeah, or a doctor it’s like, no, no, there’s there’s different types, there’s lots of different types.
01:11:20
So some of the nerdiest branches of librarianship deal with with searching information, searching behavior and, specifically, how you create good search engines. Because library catalogs were basically always on the forefront of search engine technology and that’s why the natural language thing was like oh, it’s because we, the way we’re doing it is that we’re doing it and we. The way that people look for information isn’t the way that search engines used to and library catalogs used to parse information. The engine work differently from the way people talk. So when I was in library school, creation of natural language search engines was a big thing in our technology environment. How do we get the the bar, the search bar, to recognize what someone’s looking for if they’re asking, like, if they’re typing in the search query the way that they speak, mm, hmm, and that was a big deal because we were getting away from like old school coding, coding stuff like Boolean to the hell knows how Boolean operators work, oh please.
Nicola
Host
01:12:28
I remember when I was still back at school, we only used Boolean. Yeah, and it’s a pain in the ass.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:12:35
We basically have to predict like it’s. It’s really really hard, but to take that to the point where you can now type in a natural language query and have it go through, that was an enormous change in technology. So that’s like that’s deep geek library, that’s deep library, geek Love that. I was never that much of a nerd. I’m no good at programming.
Nicola
Host
01:12:59
So tell us all of the details around where we can find you, what like. Where can people hunt you down? Where do you hang out?
Lauren
Interviewee
01:13:08
I hang out on, of course, my website, lauren surgerycom, and I hang out on LinkedIn and I hang out on YouTube and I got a lot of YouTube videos on like communication, q&a. There’s this scenario that I’m dealing with how do I make small talk at a Christmas party? How do I fix my the corporate slide deck that I’m not allowed to change? How do I make that interesting things about workplace communication, presentation, public speaking I’ve got lots of videos on that. I’ve got interviews on there as well. All sorts of stuff on the YouTube channel and, of course, it’s all linked back to my website too. You just look up Lauren surging or at L Surgey on YouTube, you’ll find me.
Gina
Host
01:13:50
Okay, that’s so cool. I’m glad I had that big meeting. I probably could have saved myself the auditor.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:13:58
Anyway, you’re allowed to bring in teachings.
Nicola
Host
01:14:02
Yeah, I think this is a fascinating conversation, me too.
Gina
Host
01:14:07
Yeah, it’s been so interesting and I think it’s one of the joy.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:14:10
I apologize for the falling phone and the difficulties connecting on zoom. You’re fine.
Gina
Host
01:14:16
We like good If anybody knows us. It’s like we actually have a little bit of communication on our phones. We have a small talk on the phone and I’m the best friend I have.
Nicola
Host
01:14:28
I put them up there, nicklas, usually up at the crack of dawn.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:14:33
I usually am rolling in right on time and being like wait, who are we talking to now?
Gina
Host
01:14:37
I actually knew that we were talking to you tonight, so I was a little bit ahead of the game.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:14:39
I was my game this morning because I was up at like five for the school 5am. Oh my God, you have my sympathies. Yeah, I’m not a morning person either. I don’t often use handhelds and I’m a hands talker and in a moment of the news I was like what the heck? I think my microphone went flying out of my hand.
Gina
Host
01:14:58
That’s amazing. I was like wait, how come you didn’t use your own Before you tell us the context? I was like wait, how come you didn’t like center yourself before do you’re breathing before you respond? Because it sounded like you were like chucking. You did the Cardi B that she just like threw the microphone at someone who annoyed her. That is something I would do. I’d be like I’m going to throw this microphone at you if you don’t shut the hell up.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:15:24
I like to tease hecklers. Ok yeah, I really like to tease hecklers because I can usually get the audience on my side pretty quick, and it doesn’t happen often, not in the sort of talks that I do, fortunately.
Gina
Host
01:15:34
Right, all right. Well, let’s not throw microphones at anyone. I don’t think that would be well received. And are you taking new clients, like in case some of our listeners want to engage in learning how to communicate better? Is that something you are currently doing or what’s going on?
Lauren
Interviewee
01:15:54
Yeah, I do take on a handful of clients regularly. If a listener is like geez, my whole freaking team needs to hear this. I do corporate workshop training as well, and of course, I’m on the speaking circuit too, so there’s different ways of getting a hold of me, and I’m always putting out new videos and new training stuff, so Awesome.
Gina
Host
01:16:15
Lots of ways, lots of ways.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:16:17
I got a couple of books out there. There’s lots of ways to get my brain Okay.
Gina
Host
01:16:21
That’s awesome. Well, it was such a pleasure to have you on and it was so awesome just to learn from you and thank you so much for your time.
Lauren
Interviewee
01:16:31
It is a pleasure Both of you take care, get some sleep.
Gina
Host
01:16:35
Bye.
Nicola
Host
01:16:37
Bye.

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