Communication skills are great in theory, but how are they in practice? This Effective Communication Skill Blog shows you how to walk the SpeakStrong talk. I'm Meryl Runion Rose. Join our conversation about Communication Alchemy, and saying what you mean and meaning what you say... without being mean when you say it.
The Communication Alchemist is IN. Are you IN too?
Created: Monday, 14 November 2011 15:36
Last April, when I created an MP3 audio about how to communicate in a beyond-busy world, I didn’t realize I was about to become one of those people myself. When people become insanely busy, it changes how they communicate, and how you communicate with them.
My projects had me working so diligently that I found myself skimming emails, not getting back to people as quickly or thoughtfully as I like to, and even letting some things slip through the cracks - including my blog posts and newsletter. Now, after such a long silence, it seems like I should write something profound – give you pearls of wisdom from the mountaintop I’ve been on. Well, here's my main conclusion.
If I'm too busy to send a newsletter at least once a month, I'm too busy! I'm so happy to be back. To celebrate, I'm making my Beyond-Busy audio available to you free for the rest of November. You'll need the skills to prepare you for the holiday rush, so you and those you communicate with will stay connected and aligned as you navigate the busy month ahead.
Created: Friday, 28 October 2011 02:44
"You really got his attention," my husband noted. He was referring to the contractor who actually showed up on time today, and apologized for having been late so often.
"You must have spoken strong."
What had I said? I just shared the truth - that my husband and I didn't believe any estimates he gave us because they were consistently unrelated to when he actually arrived. I explained that we didn't enjoy relationships where we didn't have trust, and that made us reluctant to do any more work with him, even though the quality of his work was excellent.
I just told him how it was. My husband had complained about his erratic arrivals many times, but my words got through.
The man has a heart, and I spoke from mine. That tapped into his. Sometimes simple truth is the most powerful.
Created: Friday, 28 October 2011 02:30
My colleague and coauthor Wendy Mack had no intention of playing seated volleyball in her fine clothes at the Olympic Training Center, where she spoke recently. But when asked to, she was willing to sit on the court with the rest of the spectators. And she was willing to sit in a circle when asked. And she was willing to toss the ball around the circle. Before she knew it, she and everyone there was crawling around the floor like crabs having a blast playing "wounded Warrier Volleyball."
The instructer won the full cooperation of everyone there by inviting them to take small steps. And they were glad they did.
Sometimes skillful communication is more about setting conditions where people will do what you want than it is about diecting them.
Wendy tells this story in addition to two practical articles about change communication in her latest newsletter. It's really well done, so check it out.
Created: Wednesday, 26 October 2011 15:05
Our work with the contractor went as contracting work often does. Every small project uncovered a larger need and estimates of an hour took days. We had just hit a wall of frustration from discovering that the sky light installation wasn't as simple a matter as we had been told, when our neighbor shouted out,
- Your house is looking beautiful!
We thought so, too, but it sure helped to hear someone else say so.
You never know when a kind word is just exactly what someone needs to hear.
Created: Thursday, 29 September 2011 17:50
Even good arguments have counter arguments. So how do you note alternative views without sounding like you're being... argumentative?
It helps if you define what you're doing. For example, you could say,
- May I vocalize the counterargument so we can see if it has any weight?
This invites the other person to align with you in an effort to see what value, if any, other perspectives offer to a discussion. It keeps you from being two people on the opposite side of a discussion to two people side-by-side looking at a challenge, considering perspectives.
Oh - I LOVE collaboration! Adversarial communication brings out different views, too, but ultimately it's a barrier to effective communication skills. People are too busy trying to win to be able to hear reason, logic and truth.
Created: Monday, 12 September 2011 21:20
There's something really nice about receiving an email from a new work affiliate that starts with,
- Goodie for you! Another person to work with!
That's how Jennifer at IAAP opened her email to me explaining what I need to know to tell people how they can get credit toward recertification for training that I offer. I felt like my inquiry was more than welcome.
If her response had been fluff, I wouldn't have appreciated the tone as much. However, the response was thorough and clear.
In my research for my book on Virtual Team communication, I read about how "The 100 best companies to work for in America" all share an celebratory feel in normal communication.
Is that cool, or what! We don't have to leave our playful selves at home.
That is worthy of celebration! Maybe I'll celebrate by sending Jennifer a quick email! Goodie for me!
Created: Friday, 09 September 2011 14:40
Black and white thinking is a barrier to effective communication skills. Too often we discover how we've limited ourselves and flip into the opposite view. The "but" hunt you hear among motivational and communication professionals is an example of good observations gone bad by over-application. ("How big is your 'but'" and "'but' negates everything that went before it and should be replaced with 'and'".)
The result often is unclear and convoluted speech where people overlook legitimate concerns because they don't want to have a big 'but' and where people awkwardly use other words to say what 'but' says perfectly well.
If I say,
- I'd love to come, but I already made plans
...the use of the word 'but' does NOT negate the fact that I'd love to come, and is a much clearer way to say no than "I'd love to come and I made other plans".
The point of this post is not so much about how you need to stop the 'but hunt' as it is about how effective communication skill involves taking what you learn and asking if it helps you communicate what you really mean. If it doesn't, tell the professional who gave you the rule, "Thanks, but no thanks" and opt for clarity.
Created: Thursday, 08 September 2011 01:52
Sometimes I lose or can't find my voice. I'm not talking about laryngitis. I'm talking about being able to speak my own truth. It's what a mentor of mine calls an authenticity block. There are many reasons for it. It can be that I'm changing, and I haven't caught up with myself. It can be that I'm interacting with a strong personality whose perceptions overpower mine for a while. Sometimes I get overshadowed by complexity and lose my awareness of the simple truth. Oh - there are times when I prefer not to admit the truth, and that keeps me mute. Whatever the reason, it can be very uncomfortable and take a lot of patience and persistance.
And then when I find my voice again, it's like coming back home. I start posting on my blog again. The book that wasn't flowing starts writing itself. And somehow, the new voice is truer than the old one.
Speaking Strong really is about finding and clearly communicating your own voice. What YOU have to say. What YOU think, feel and want.
You may not have the verbal skills of professional communicators. And it's okay to let other people's words jumpstart your own - just as long as what you say is your own.
I'll be coming out of my book writing retreat in the weeks to come and engaging with my readers more. My vision is to have a community of people who want to be a voice, not an echo.
I hope you'll be a part of it.
Created: Tuesday, 06 September 2011 16:38
My husband and I rewatched Don Juan De Marco with Johnny Depp (be still, my heart) this weekend. There is a fabulous scene where, inspired by his romantic patient, Dr. Mickler (Marlon Brando) dashes home and invites his wife upstairs. You see the requisite clothing scattered everywhere and then you see the couple in bed - shooting popcorn in the air with a pea shooter and catching it in their mouths. The pure surprise of the scene is it's delight.
The key, of course is the spirit of play and adventure, not the actual popcorn challenge. If you were to turn to your spouse and say, "let's go upstairs and shoot popcorn in the air and catch it in our mouths", you might be pleased with the result, but chances are the whole thing would seem contrived.
That's why I turned to my husband and said,
- Let's go to bed early and see what happens.
I meant it exactly the way I said it. He knew that. No expectation. No anticipation of any result. Ready for surprises. We were both quite pleased with our "experimental outcome".
Lean manufacturing began in the US by copying tools and processes with mixed results. That's very much like watching Brando and Dunaway play popcorn and trying it yourself. Now, the community is evolving in the direction of a more dynamic understanding of how those tools and processes come into play. They are growing into what Don Juan De Marco knew and Mr. and Mrs. Mickler discovered in the movie Don Juan De Marco: Iterative learning lead by a dynamic essence, not a static form. Mike Rother's Toyota Kata actually creates a system to guide the iterative process. My years as a highly-trained meditation teacher taught me a similar skill - to guide people to let go of directing a process into aligning with it and letting it teach them.
I couldn't find a picture of Brando and Dunnaway in their popcorn play, so I settled for the one above. If you have a picture of the popcorn adventure, pass it on, will you?