Communication is key to positive relationships, whether at work, at home or in our community. Some of us think we do a pretty good job communicating but sure would like some tips to improve our skills. Others make it harder than it has to be. So here are some strategies you can share with others to get past communication speed bumps and help them build a will to succeed.
Engage. The longer we put off a difficult conversation, the harder it’s going to be. It’s much better to have that discussion than let things fester and allow misunderstandings to form. Use the 4-F Communication Method to prepare for and guide the conversation:
F = state the facts. Don’t make assumptions about the motivation of others. Stating facts will help clarify the situation and keep both parties from mistakenly believing they know what the other person is thinking.
F = identify feelings. Better to tell them you are “frustrated, concerned, confused, disappointed” etc. so they are clear about the impact they’re having on you or others. Avoid “hot button” words like “disgusted, angry, suspicious” etc. that could raise the temperature in the conversation.
F = discuss the fallout. If the behavior continues, what results or outcomes will occur? Both sides need to be clear on consequences, both positive and punitive.
F = ask for feedback. Sometimes we don’t have all the information we need, which is one of the reasons why it’s good to ask the other party for their input. It also makes the other person feel like they are being treated with respect.
Clarify your purpose. Identify the outcome you want, then tell the other person, “My goal is to help you _______________ with this decision/issue.” That way they are clear about your intentions. The last thing you need is to have people wondering about the reasons behind your actions and words.
Use an appropriate listening style. Match your personal listening style to the other person’s needs. There are five listening styles: appreciative, empathic, discerning, comprehensive and evaluative. While we all have a few styles we naturally use, we can switch our approach to build better rapport. Example: It wouldn’t help to use an evaluative style and judging when someone needs an empathic, understanding listener.
Interpret non-verbals. For example, someone standing with arms crossed may not be trying to block you out. They may either be protecting themselves or they’re simply cold. Don’t be afraid to clarify and ask, “I notice you’re crossing your arms. Are you cold or am I making you uncomfortable?”
Avoid using passive phrases. Whether it’s in your writing or your speech, passive phrases weaken your communication and can distract from your main point. These phrases start with prepositions, including “through, to, toward, under, up, with” etc. and can include sentences that start with:
By the way…
I’m no expert, but…
Toward that end…
Don’t assume when others say “yes” they agree with you. If they say “yes” or nod their head, they may only want to acknowledge they’ve heard you. Ask the question, “Do you agree?” in order to confirm without a doubt.
Your physical presence could be intimidating. This is especially true if you have a very aggressive manner, you speak loudly, you’re tall or large in size. If you want people to open up with you, take steps to minimize the threat. Sit down. Lower your voice. Ask more questions vs using telling statements.
Clarify understanding. Say, “What I heard you just tell me is…” That will reduce the possibility of miscommunication and confirm you understand their message. It only takes a second and it helps build confidence you’re on the same page.
Get better information. Use my CARLA Concept Communication Model to get people to speak up. Each of these five simple steps will help clarify the situation and move the conversation forward. You can use it to coach someone, get to the root of a problem, do a gap analysis and reach may other constructive outcomes.
Even if you only use a few of these five steps you will add more structure to your communication and get better results:
C = what is the challenge or change you/they face?
A = what actions were taken?
R = what results occurred?
L = what were the lessons learned?
A = what’s another approach? (now that you know what you know)
Don’t spin your wheels with toxic people. It takes two to tango. If you’re the only one doing the work and the other person actively seeks to destroy the relationship, it may be best to cease all contact. Save your energy for people who deserve your attention.