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Learn to Finish Conversations Well

Learn to Finish Conversations Well

We managers can get ourselves into far too many situations where we unwittingly set others up for disappointment because we haven’t learned to finish our conversations well.

Last week I encouraged you to add The Daily Five Minutes (D5M for short) to your management toolbox because it creates more workplace conversations. The intention of the D5M is to give your staff the gift of your attention, five minutes on a recurring basis where you listen well, truly focusing on getting to know them better, and engaging them in dynamic conversations.

This week, I want you to consider how you wrap it up: How do you finish those conversations? Do you both walk away from each other with a clear understanding of who will do what about whatever you’ve just talked about — and when?

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Too often, managers use “safe” sentences so they don’t make promises they can’t keep. They’ll say things like, “thank you for letting me know,” or “that’s interesting, I wasn’t aware of that,” or “yes, I see what you mean” clueless to the possibility that they’ve given the other person the impression they now own the information and will do something about it. But what? And do they own the issue, or do they think they’ve skirted it?

Skirting issues and playing it safe is for wimps. Great managers rise above those tactics because they seek to get stuff done. However, that doesn’t mean that they own everything they’ve been told either. They’re clear. They’re clear on what they will do, and what they will not do, and why.

You can’t fix everything, and you know that you can’t, but you also cannot assume that the person you’re talking to understands that too. As a conversation ends, if you aren’t clear on what you’ll do with your new tidbit of information, you could be giving an employee the impression you will fix it (whatever “it” is), especially when they’re assuming it is in your power to do so. After all, you are the manager, and isn’t that what managers do?

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Maybe so, however great managers do with their staff, they don’t necessarily do for. They work with employees to bring their strengths and talents to full employment, and they try to eliminate all the “I can’t” thinking and other obstacles which stand in the way of engaging performance and optimal productivity. They get employees to be part of solutions as much as possible, coaching their staff to participate in decision-making. Great managers facilitate way more than they expedite. They understand that the quickest way now is not always the fastest way for keeps, nor is it always the best way.

No more vague.

If an employee walks away from your conversation hearing something as vague as “I understand, I’ll give that some thought” you must understand that they are waiting for you to take action. The longer it takes for that action to happen – or heaven help you, you forget about it, or hope the issue goes away on it’s own eventual resolution – the more damaging the hit to your credibility and reputation as a manager who cares and effectively gets things done. The less you get things done, the less employees will talk you, thinking to themselves, “What’s the use?”

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Finish conversations well by coming to agreements on what your next actions are, “your” meaning both of you.

Seek partnerships and reach for synergy.

  • Clearly state what you plan on doing next with the information you’ve just been given, and if you expect or wish to have that employee participate and remain involved in some way.
  • State what your next action will be, and ask for or suggest a next action for them, thereby creating collaboration for resolution between you.
  • Ask if they agree, or if they have a better idea (they often will! They’re closer to the problem!)
  • Last, set a time when you’ll have a follow-up conversation to update each other; set a date for another D5M.
  • Before it arrives, take the action you agreed to take.
  • When you have your follow-up conversation, speak of another agreement on the next step in the process until the issue has been taken care of.

You’ll walk away with a new partnership, and you’ll be yet another step closer to being a great manager.

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Post Author:
Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. She fervently believes that work can inspire, and that great managers and leaders can change our lives for the better. Rosa writes for Lifehack.org to freely offer her coaching to those of us who aspire to be greater than we are, for she also believes in us. Writing on What Great Managers Do is one of her favorite topics. You can also visit her on www.managingwithaloha.com.

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Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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