For Halloween this past year, my husband dressed up as Ted Lasso. He typically has a beard, but when he walked out of the bathroom that morning with his porn ‘stache and no beard, I thought I might actually pee my pants from laughing so hard. I was like, “What in the heck is going on here?” It was perfect.
People tell him all the time that he is Jason Sudekasis’ doppelganger so to say he nailed that costume is putting it mildly. He was the most popular person on our block, much to our small child’s dismay. As people passed him on the street or yelled, “TED LASSO!” from a block away, he would quip a Lasso quote: “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” or “I do love a locker room. It smells like potential.” or “If that’s a joke, I love it. If not, can’t wait to unpack that with you later.” or “Believe!”
But his favorite was, “Be curious!”
The full quote from Ted Lasso was during the famous darts scene when he said, “Guys have underestimated me my entire life. And for years, I never understood why. It used to really bother me. But then one day, I was driving my little boy to school, and I saw this quote by Walt Whitman, and it was painted on the wall there. It said, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ I like that.”
I won’t tell you what happens next, in case you have yet to see the first season (and, if you haven’t, you really, really, really need to stop what you are doing and go watch it), but it comes right in the middle of one of the best scenes in television.
It also prompts such a great lesson to become an even better communicator.
Humans Don’t Like Change
A thousand years ago, when I first started evangelizing the use of social media inside B2B organizations, one of the first questions I asked a captive audience was, “How many of you like change?” Typically about half of the room would raise their hands.
Then I would ask, “How many of you like big changes at work?” At that point, almost no one raised their hands.
Then I would switch gears, “How many of you like change when it comes to the new iPhone or a new restaurant in your community?” Nearly everyone would raise their hands at that point.
I would use it as a way to illustrate that human beings don’t like change if it takes us out of our comfort zones, but we really like it if it’s some new technology or a new experience. In other words, if adopting it is low risk, we love it. But the higher the risk the change is (like a massive change at work), the less likely we are to adopt it…or at least approach it with open arms.
When I started this work, pretty much everyone told me that social media was for the kids and that it would never be effective in their businesses. Oh, how I wish I could look some of those people in the eyes now and ask them how it’s going.
Retrain Your Brain
But the point is that, as human beings, we get stuck. We decide change is for the kids; that we have no reason to change. We stop being curious. And we do things because that’s the way we’ve always done them. This is why we should work to unlearn what we know.
Yes, I want you to unlearn some things for the future of the communications professional is what they call neuroplasticity, or retraining our brains to think differently. This will allow us to accept change with open arms, create opportunities to work in new and exciting ways, and be curious and not judgmental.
Adam Grant, an organization psychologist says this best, “It takes curiosity to learn but courage to unlearn. Learning requires the humility to admit what you don’t know today. Unlearning requires the integrity to admit that you were wrong yesterday.”
I’ll be honest: when I first heard Adam Grant talking about the idea of unlearning what we know to excel our careers, I was skeptical. Also, my kid loves to sing a song she made up called, “Mommy Never Makes Mistakes” and I really love that she thinks I’m perfect. I probably only have another couple of years with that thinking so I’m embracing it!
Imagine, then, hearing this idea from Grant, which led me to read his book, Think Again, on the topic. Mind. Blown.
In the book, he says, “Intelligence is usually seen as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn.
“In our daily lives, too many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. We listen to opinions that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard. We see disagreement as a threat to our egos, rather than an opportunity to learn. We surround ourselves with people who agree with our conclusions when we should be gravitating toward those who challenge our thought process.
“The result is that our beliefs get brittle long before our bones. Intelligence is no cure, and it can even be a curse: there’s evidence that being good at thinking can make us worse at rethinking. The brighter we are, the blinder to our own limitations we can become.”
Change Your Mindset
Think about this from your own perspective. How many of you have unfriended or blocked friends on social media because they think differently than you do? I certainly have—and I’ve defended my behavior by saying to myself that I believe in science and I don’t have time for those who do not.
While that’s an incredibly challenging frame of mind to change, there is something to be said to being around people who don’t believe in science, if only to understand what we’re up against.
That’s an extreme example but think about all of the times you got angry or defensive at work. We have one client that is going through a massive project management system shift for their internal marketing team and, at the start, I was pretty upset about the change. I had, after all, spent a lot of my weekends and evenings building our programs and processes in their current system.
But as I was shutting down to the idea, I heard the words of Grant in my head (I had just finished reading his book) and decided to keep an open mind. Not to say it hasn’t been painful—it has, but I can already see how this process and system is significantly better than what they were using, and how my team was working within it to help them.
Become a Better Communicator
Likewise, we have a team member who is a fantastic writer, but he shuts down completely anytime anyone gives him feedback. In the past, I would explain that even the best writers have to be edited (you’d be amazed at how many times my books were edited before they were published—paaaaaaiiiiinful) and that the feedback makes him an even better writer, but he wouldn’t hear it. He would get defensive and storm off to a corner to sulk.
After reading Grant’s book, I began to take a different approach. Instead of empathizing with him because I had to rewrite Spin Sucks three times (THREE!!), I now ask him questions, such as, “This white paper is fantastic! We need to get stakeholder buy-in and I know they’ll have some feedback. How would you like to receive it?”
Even if he gets defensive at that moment, he knows the feedback is coming and he’s prepared for it. He’s slowly unlearning his kneejerk reaction to being defensive and, instead, how to gratefully accept the gift of feedback to become even better at his job. And he’s GREAT at his job, but just as my kid will eventually figure out about me, we all have room to grow.
It’s a fascinating approach to becoming better at our jobs (and less judgmental humans) and I encourage you to learn more about it. Because, in the words of Ted Lasso, we should “Be curious, not judgmental.”
Join the Discussion
Adam Grant has an impressive discussion guide about how to unlearn your behaviors and start anew, so check that out.
And, if you’d like to talk more about this topic—or anything else related to the comms business—and you’re not already a Spin Sucks Community member, what the heck are you waiting for? Get your butt over there today and see what all the fuss is about.