Sustainable Information Technology

How to not understand

Green IT Plans!

Dan, we've gone over your plans and we just don't understand. What's Green IT again?

I am working with someone on a project, let’s call him Joe. Joe asks me a lot of questions. Which is good.

Sometimes, Joe doesn’t understand what I am trying to convey. He gets angry. He shrugs, or folds his arms and shakes his head and says “No. I don’t understand.” Joe seems to be angry at me, and in turn I’m irritated by his anger. A bad feedback cycle. It’s a stand-off.

First of all I think about what I can do. “The meaning of a communication is the response it receives”, or so I learned in NLP class. In other words, don’t blame the listener: communicate differently so that you get a different result. I take this on board.

Then I think about Joe’s anger and my irritation at his anger. Deep, deep down Joe is angry at himself, I think, because not understanding something exposes him, makes him feel weak or disadvantaged. Open to ridicule and criticism. If this is true, then my irritation at his anger is out of place. Compassion would be a better response from me.

Not understanding is a bridge to something better

But there’s something else. What can Joe do to improve the way he reacts in this situation? Well, he can learn how to not understand in a better way. Instead of a generalised not understanding, he could break it down into parts. “The first thing I don’t understand about this,” he could say, “is X. No one has ever explained that to me”.

Now there is a bridge between us. And we can both go on to a greater understanding.