It has been very, very hot in my hometown over the past week. People are hiding in their basements, seeking out air conditioned venues, and generally doing as little as possible. Men, women, children, and animals alike are sticky, sweaty, itchy, and irritable.
This is affecting not only how people are saying their message, but also how people are receiving it. This is spectacularly demonstrated on Twitter, where both tweets and replies bearing my city’s hashtag are more acerbic than usual.
Contrast this with the tweets flying around after Alberta’s recent election. In the wake of the “Orange Crush” and the first change in government in 44 years, Alberta-related tweets were flooded with optimism, energy, and excitement* – even when they weren’t discussing the election results.
Right now, the heat is an environmental factor affecting how people communicate. It is affecting both how people are delivering and interpreting the messages that cross their paths.
It is hugely important to take into consideration external factors that will affect how we say and hear information. Even things that seem too simplistic or unrelated to affect how people feel about an issue at hand can change the conversation. Our mindsets, energy levels, willpower, patience, and other personal factors can be nudged by seemingly unrelated external forces, significantly affecting how we speak and how we listen.
We might not be able to control those external factors. Try as I might, the weather gods have yet to adjust to my personal preferences. But we can take those factors into consideration, both as speaker and as listener.**
The heat doesn’t make your content or your message any less brilliant. It certainly isn’t your fault that the room feels like a convection oven. But it might mean that you are dealing with a crabby audience. Keep that in mind and cut them – and yourself – a bit of slack.
*Of course, there was also grumblings from those who did not approve of the election results. The apoplectic sputtering coming from the defeated provincial Conservatives and members of the federal Conservatives were particularly entertaining.
**Is your audience predisposed to be irritable? Take the pace of your delivery down a notch. Feeling combative? Try to turn off your internal monologue and really listen to the other person instead of formulating arguments in your head. Talking to people who have just received some great news? Take advantage of their positive energy and highlight the bright side of your issue.