Communication skills are great in theory, but how are they in practice? This Effective Communication Skill Blogshows 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?
It's common wisdom that you don't use email for touchy conversations, isn't it?
I've been rethinking that one. Every situation is different, but more recently I've decided if I have something to tell an associate that might be difficult to hear, email is actually a good way to communicate - IF - I make it clear I plan to follow-up verbally and invite them to call if they prefer.
Too often people use email to hit-and-run. They chose it to avoid dealing with someone's reaction and to have the last word.
But I think email explanations with an invitation to talk about a situation actually allows the other person the time to collect themselves and respond gracefully and thoughtfully. It can give them the chance to consider alternatives and even uncover possible flaws in my logic.
I've used it this way recently, and it worked the way I intended. Both times the recipient thanked me for my thoughtful email and was ready to have an open conversation about the situation I raised. Both times they actually agreed and were glad to have the opportunity to respond by saying basically the same thing from their perspective.
So don't rule out email for INITIATING touchy conversations. But don't hide behind it either.
Joe kept trying to make it right and explain to Nancy why she shouldn't be upset. He guessed what was upsetting to Nancy without really listening to what she was telling him. He tried to pacify her in ways that were based on one assumption after another. Finally he gave up and said,
I don't know what to do next.
That was the perfect next step. Finally he was open enough to listen to Nancy. Finally they were able to have a real and productive conversation that moved their understanding forward.
If you find your words aren't getting the response you're going for, ask yourself what you don't know. Just entertaining the question can take your attention to a litany of assumptions you didn't know you were making. The perfect next step is to go and find out.
Last April I had the pleasure of welcoming my parents back to their home after months in skilled nursing and assisted living. Many people thought they would never return home again. Harriet, my step mother knew she would. It was her absolute certainty and determination that bought them more time in their home.
Some things needed to change to make it possible. That meant a lot of challenging but necessary conversations about who could be counted on to do what. Old family patterns and games had to give way to straightforward dialog. But they made it home and they're still home, and contrary to many projections, my step mother is driving again.
She talked it and she walked it. It wasn't just positive thinking and bold declarations. It was positive thinking, bold declarations and concerted effort.
It might not sound like a complement, but it was. Steve told Wendy
You've gotten really good at falling this year
Steve was referring to cross country skiing.
When you're good at falling, you dare to stretch past your comfort zone. You're willing to risk more because you know you can pick yourself back up and move on with little damage. And this principle applies to more than cross-country skiing.
I've picked myself up from a number of communication falls lately. I've risked truth knowing that my friend or partner might not want to hear what I really was experiencing. I've ended a few associations that simply weren't willing to meet me where I am. I felt some sadness, some relief and much peace.
I also have some amazing wins and breakthroughs. I've had moments of dazzling clarity, joyful shared discovery and satisfying connections.
I think I'm getting really good at falling. How about you?
This from my engineer, researcher and Toyota Kata author buddy Mike Rother. Another learning experiment involving kindergartners. The Economist reported that proves (okay, indicates,) that when teachers, coaches and guides explain what you can do with something, it inhibits exploration and discovery.
It's such a fine balance! In Perfect Phrases for Managers and Supervisiors, I refer to Management by Throwing Spaghetti Against the Wall. Perfect Phrases for Leadership Development is all about guiding people to make their own discoveries. I recently heard a Kimberley Clark manager talk about how they don't share best practices because they want their managers and workgroups to find their own answers. They guide them in doing that, but it still takes longer. It also results in managers and workgroups that learn to improve processes on their own.
I work with coauthors. I have my own ideas of how the books should evolve, but I know from experience that if I say too much, their input is more likely to be limited to what they think I'm looking for. If I don't over-direct, they are more likely to come up with things I would have missed.
So I hold back. I might ask questions, but if I do, they're honest questions, not leading questions to get my coauthors to come to the same conclusions I did.
Of course, synergy comes from a side-by-side exploration. I have a head-start when I invite a coauthor to write with me on a book project I created. I like to give them a chance to do their own thinking and then I'll share mine. Then we experience synergy - mutual discovery where we're exploring side-by-side.
The Economist study did not explore what happens when the teacher and students discover what the toy can do together. I suspect if it had, the discoveries would skyrocketed.
From Seth Godin: "When your organization punishes people for caring, don't be surprised when people stop caring".
I can recount many times where I felt actually ridiculed for caring. Can you? In a profit-driven world, it can take a lot of courage to care. It's worth it. And if you don't dare to care where you are, it may well be time for a change.
Corporations don't care. People do. Or some people do. I've been shocked at times about how uncaring some people have been. I've ended mutually beneficial business relationships with companies that have rewarded non-caring and punished caring. Tough choice - but I don't do business that way. There are too many people in the world who do care - and enough organizations that allow their people to care that we don't need to waste much time with those who don't.
Henry Ford is quoted as saying, "It's not what you say or how you say it, it's how often you say it". While Ford referred to advertising, his point applies to all kinds of communication. Consistency reinforces your message.
Especially in our crazy-busy world - don't assume that because you told someone something once, they got it. That's why as a speaker, I make the same point in many different ways - and as a professional, a wife, a mother, a friend - I strive to cut people slack. People are busy and we all need to reinforce our points with repetition.
What we DON'T want to do is tell them once and build our case against them because they didn't get it.
Category: Consciousness, Character, Ego and Balance
Created: Friday, 27 May 2011 01:55
What makes a conversation courageous? You could say it's when there's a risk involved. And I wouldn't argue with you. But more specifically, I think unpredictability makes a conversation courageous. When you keep talking, moving through chaos and confusion, learning with each step and moving forward. That takes courage. And it's very tempting to reach for security or invent artificial security.
We grow by operating on the outskirts of our capacity. We also fail by doing that, but we learn more from our failure than our easy wins.
So have some courageous conversations. It might hurt a bit - but i would call it growing pains.
I listened to two business radio interviews yesterday. Both were excellent. And in both cases, I consitently wanted to ask the guests to please:
Give me an example.
It all sounds good, but I don't really get it until I hear it described in action/application.
There's a trend in business books toward fables and story-telling. But you don't need to write a whole book to give an example. It can be as simple as what I did here - I gave an example of how I wanted an example to understand a principle.
Make a point, elaborate on the point and illustrate the point with an action or an example. It's a simple formula for communication success.
Immediacy is the name of the game these days. So what do you say when someone wants immediate attention and you can't give it? The knee jerk response is to say "I can't do that." But instead of negating and declining, talk about what you CAN do. Say,
I can get you on the calendar right now.
I got this one from an admin who would tell people who wanted to talk with their execs right away.