Engaging in office politics is a surefire way to be seen, heard and respected. As we’re beginning to see throughout this series of blogs on The Secret Handshake: Mastering The Politics of The Business Inner Circle by Dr. Kathleen Reardon, one does not need to be born a political genius to partake in their company’s political happenings. In last week’s post, we examined how to start forming relationships the politically savvy way, which is one of the first steps on the road to becoming a political mover and shaker. This week, we will examine how you can read between the lines and start looking for what’s beneath the obvious surface. The Greeks got it right thousands of years ago when they said: “If people are kept in the dark, they will be at the mercy of those who have not been so deprived” (Reardon 85). So, How can you start to read between the lines?
- Improving Your Powers of Observation (Reardon 85)
The very first step to increasing your political abilities is improving your observational methods. We often communicate in subtleties and innuendoes, and while many negative messages are sent subtly, so are many positive ones. This is why it is so important to be able to read between the lines.
- Check Your Assumptions At The Door (Reardon 93)
One of the most significant ways we create roadblocks for ourselves while trying to read between the lines is drawing quick conclusions and forming quick assumptions. One of the reasons we do this is we try to use the least amount of brainpower that we think we can get away with. As Dr. Reardon states: “The politically astute don’t assume – they assess” (95).
- Seeing The Disconnects (Reardon 95)
The power of nonverbal communication is astounding. In fact, the skill that politically adept people have that allow them to read between the lines is the ability to detect disconnects between verbal and nonverbal communication; they can detect incongruent messages. (For more information on nonverbal communication, take a look at our courses on body language and on micro-facial expressions). Remember, meaning exists on two levels: content and relational. Content meaning is what is said, and relational meaning is how the person feels about it.
- Interpreting on Two Levels (Reardon 97)
Again, don’t just listen to the words being spoken, but try to look for connotation in their meanings as well.
Dr. Reardon has developed what she calls The PURRR Procedure for Checking Assumptions (98). The Procedure is as follows:
- PAUSE before you formulate a judgment based on something someone has said
- Make sure you UNDERSTAND what someone has said both on content and relational levels
- REFLECT on the information you’re using to form this judgment
- REINTERPRET what happened by applying an alternate favorable explanation to the one you’ve just considered
- REDIRECT the conversation onto a path that best fits your goals
How you interpret what people say has a huge impact on the actions you take and on how others perceive you. Take precautions when interpreting what others say and remember that time is on your side; don’t jump to conclusions, and carefully look for content as well as relational and connotative meanings. If you do so, you will be one step closer to mastering the secret handshake!
Reardon, Kathleen Kelley. The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the
business inner circle. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.