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SOA 5 Jul 2018

Safe Operating Area

Sometimes when we try to communicate with others, the bell does not ring. Sometimes this happens despite that our spoken message is clear enough. Our relationships in groups of people are rooted in our group culture. Politeness commands that we communicate in the scope of certain patterns. When our message is out of the normal way or scope of the group expectations, the receiver(s) of the message may not be able or willing to deal with our message.

The unwritten and unspoken protocol

Normally smooth and easy communication follows a safe pattern where no-one really needs to make serious effort. The relating goes easy and in a way that most people appreciate.

There are however shadow sides. Some examples are:

  1. Difficult messages are avoided.
  2. People find it hard to deal with messages that violate the protocol.
  3. Important unexpected messages may be totally ignored.
  4. The giver of an imported unexpected message may get very disappointed.
  5. The group may avoid talking about complicated issues.

That sounds like we may be trapped in our unwritten and unspoken laws.

Awareness about group expectations

Yesterday I had a coaching session about ineffectiveness with communication. During the session I began to realize that in various groups I am only little aware of the protocol. It is like with some thoughts in the mind: they can be pretty vague and hard to express. I decided that I would like to make for some of my social groups a one-page list with some of those unspoken expectations like:

  • A few safe subjects for smalltalk
  • A few subjects that most likely will cause trouble
  • A few words about the purpose of the group
  • What people like to do
  • What people avoid to do
  • My place in the group
  • How other people relate to me or feel about me

What do I expect from the exercise?

Three things:
- I like to do the exercise
- I will be surprised about 25% of the issues that I know but ignore
- I expect that it really will help me to clarify my SOA (Safe Operating Area)

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