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Communication 101

Communication 101

A commenter on my blog sent me this little morsel:

A project manager was running a piece of work with a geographically dispersed team. The team leader was tasked with communicating some bad news to the team members in another city, so he phoned them all and had a conversation with them.

A couple of weeks later, during a tele-conference with the whole team, this piece of bad news was raised. There were gasps of surprise and protest from the remote team. Apparently, this bad news was news to them!

The PM asked the team leader why he hadn’t communicated the news in advance. He insisted that he had and cited all the phone calls. So the PM asked each team member in turn whether they had received the information. One by one, the said they hadn’t, frequently being interrupted by the team leader, who insisted over and over that he had delivered the information.

While the team members were speaking in turn over the speaker, the team leader scribbled “I DID communicate it!” on a sheet of A4 paper and held it up for his peers and his manager to see.

You say you did communicate it. Our survey says… “Eh, ehhhhhhhhh!” (Family Fortunes reference, in case no one gets it).

Phone

    While this is a situation than many of us can immediately identify with, I found it very interesting. This example; of poor to non-existent communication on the part of the project manager, who thought he was doing a bang-up job; neatly illustrates the number one problem I have observed with human communication. Why does person-to-person communication fail all the time? Because one of those people has assumed that communication has taken place – when in fact it hasn’t.

    If you want the right action to take place when you communicate something important to another person, three C’s have to happen:

    • Comprehend – the person has to understand you.
    • Concur – the person has to agree with you. [This can be over-ruled to some extent in hierarchical environments, but it’s generally better if there’s buy-in.]
    • Care – what you are trying to communicate has to matter to the person.

    So simple. A gerbil could do this. Why does it go wrong? How does it go wrong?

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    “I absolutely understand what you are saying and I totally agree with you (and the unspoken kicker) but I just don’t give a damn about that particular problem.” Result – no action.

    “I absolutely understand the problem and I care p-a-s-s-i-o-n-a-t-e-l-y about it, so I’m going to take action on it right now (unspoken) but I don’t agree with you.” Result – wrong action.

    “I’m making that problem my number one priority and I totally agree with your ideas; I’m all over it!” Result – wrong action, because you didn’t make yourself clear and the person thought they understood what you were saying … but they didn’t.

    In a recent American Management Association survey, 90% of senior managers rated themselves as “effective” or “highly effective” communicators. And the score awarded to those senior managers from their subordinates? 30%. Hmmm – I think I can see a problem here.

    The majority of the human species are … well, average. At almost everything. In order for clear, effective, actionable communication to take place, a number of simple elements need to be in place:

    • Empathy – the parties need to understand each other’s disposition. If I can read you, I’ll know when to talk, when to shut up, when to ask questions and when to leave you alone.
    • Listening – extending out past empathy. When I listen – really listen – to you, I can rapidly assess your level of intelligence, confidence, knowledge of the topic, and viewpoint. I can ‘hear between the lines’ and know when to ask a question to get you to open up further. Good listening, in short, will ramp up the level of of communication between us.
    • Advocating – when I do open my mouth, what comes out of it? This is the element that most people associate with effective communication – the gift of the gab, the silver tongued devil – and if I am deficient in this capacity, it is unlikely that I am going to gain a reputation as a great communicator.

    Not exactly rocket science now is it? And yet you can probably only think of a handful of really top-notch communicators in your circle of acquaintance. Why? Because in order to be considered exceptional, you need to be genuinely exceptional in all three of those areas, plus you have to be sufficiently self-aware and sufficiently confident in yourself to apply those skills in your day-to-day dealings.

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    Thoughts and comments from gerbil-lovers everywhere will be welcomed and appreciated.

    Rowan Manahan is The Insultant. He blogs at Fortify Your Oasis. Apart from roaring (occasionally) helpful advice at his clients, he has written the best-seller Where’s My Oasis?. He also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines and runs Fortify Services – an Irish-based careers consultancy.

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    Last Updated on January 18, 2019

    7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

    7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

    Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

    But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

    If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

    1. Limit the time you spend with them.

    First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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    In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

    Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

    2. Speak up for yourself.

    Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

    3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

    This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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    But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

    4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

    Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

    This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

    Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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    5. Change the subject.

    When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

    Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

    6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

    Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

    I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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    You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

    Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

    7. Leave them behind.

    Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

    If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

    That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

    You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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