Tag Archive for Communication skills

Communicating -Remove the Roadblocks to Receiving Your Message

Distractions are a major cause of misunderstandings during a conversation. Help your listener by removing as many obstacles blocking the path to your message. You won’t be able to control internal filters such as mental or emotional instability, but you can be aware of physical distractions such as illness, hunger or fatigue if you’re observant, present and aware. Obvious anxiety or fear can be lessened by letting your listener know that you are aware of those emotions.

Help remove language barriers by speaking clearly, enunciating and avoiding excess words. Move to a different location if noise or visual distractions are present.

Copyright 2010 Allie Casey
Excerpt from Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say it and When to Shut-up!

Feedback–How to Provide Positive Gift-Giving Phrases

Sometimes giving positive feedback is as challenging as giving negative feedback. The difficulty is sounding positive and specific not just enthusiastic and generic.  Everyone is in the position to offer “gift-giving phrases”–boss to employee, co-worker to co-worker, salesperson to customer, parent to child, spouses, partners and so on.

Here are a few gift-giving phrases: (be specific with the details)

  • You really made a difference by ___( sharing your expertise, pitching in to help…)
  • I’m impressed with your____( ability to handle angry customers, insight into this project…)
  • You got my attention with___( your interpretation of the research…)
  • You can be proud of yourself for___(handling that misunderstanding with diplomacy….)
  • One of the things I enjoy most about you is___(your ability to make others feel good…)

Share your own gift-giving phrases below.

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Assertive Communication

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Communication– The “Keep Your Cool” Formula – 3 Easy Steps

Sometimes it helps to have a quick formula that’s easy to remember, easy to post where you can see it and easy to implement. In touchy communication situations when emotions might thwart clear thinking try these 3 steps:

1. Observation – Observe the pace, voice, eye-contact and posture of your listener. Pay attention to emotions, intentions, and any mental or physical distractions. Match and step it down if emotions are high.

2. Adaptation – Shift your style to communicate in the way your listener likes to communicate. A small adjustment now saves time, money and effort later.

3. Confirmation – Verify that the translation and comprehension of your message matches your intention. (and be honest about your intention-is it aligned to your highest self?)

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Conflict Resolution Tip – Listen with Your Eyes, Ears & Energy

The next time you communicate with someone, especially when you are trying to resolve a conflict, practice giving them 100% of your attention. It means using direct eye contact. And, it means listening to what they’re saying and to what they’re not saying. Pay attention to body language and listen to the tone, pitch and volume of their voice to catch their true meaning.

Richard Moss says, “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”

Giving 100% attention also means doing the difficult internal work of keeping your mind totally focused on them–not allowing yourself to focus on what you are going to say when they stop talking or wondering what you are going to have for lunch.

When you communicate, make the other person feel that, while they’re with you, they are what matters most.

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Communication – The Power of the Pause!

Misunderstandings in the Workplace – How to Clarify Expectations and Meet Goals

A common complaint from managers revolves around unmet expectations from direct reports and their teams. Similarly, workers complain that expectations are not clear and leave too much room for misunderstandings and assumptions.

Here is a look at some root problems and solutions:

Problem: Failure to clarify the desired results assuming the outcome is understood.

Management is often working within a larger framework with information that has not been made available to their direct reports. Think of this information as the missing pieces that complete the puzzle picture. The manager’s expected result is to reproduce the picture with all the parts as he sees it. Misunderstandings arise when the picture in the manager’s head does not match the picture they have painted for their direct reports.

Solution:

1. Clarify the expectations. Paint a picture in as many ways as possible-visually, verbally and vocally. Give a comparison to a known entity, if possible. “It should look like X with this adjustment.”

2. Clearly state the required details-the non-negotiable conditions.

3. Confirm interpretation and actions. Ask what was heard. Ask what that means. Ask what actions will be taken. Allow creativity and leeway to do the job as long as the end result is the same.

Problem: Systems and tools don’t function as needed and departments don’t work together.

Solution: Read more

Embarrassing Conversations-Handle with Creative, Empathic Solutions

Difficult conversations come in all shapes and sizes. Handling them effectively means you will need an arsenal of clever, creative, and direct solutions. The most challenging conversations seem to be the ones involving personal habits. Handling poor performance, unacceptable behavior or a firing are often easier than handling conversations about inappropriate clothing, bad breath or body odor. These conversations tend to go one of two ways-both come with the possibility of embarrassment for both parties.

The first response from the offender upon notification is gratitude. Clueless to their own awareness, your conversation suddenly creates an epiphany about their affect on others. The change is made and no further conversations are required. The alternate response is denial, defense and anger. The key is to keep a neutral, non-judgemental but empathic voice focused on the desired change. Refrain from downplaying or diluting the offense as this may appear as a reprieve. Allow some venting, request the change, repeat if necessary, and name the consequence if the change does not occur.

Challenging as these conversations are with co-workers they leap into another stratosphere when they involve customers. While managing an upscale home furnishings store in the south, it was not uncommon for customers to shop in casual, warm-weather clothing. On this particular day a woman came in and explained that her mother and aunt were going to stay outside and enjoy the sun while she shopped. What she failed to explain was that her elderly and obese relatives had stripped down to bikini tops and short-shorts and plopped themselves down on the curb blocking the walkway to the entrance. I mean no disrespect to the weight and chronologically challenged as this behavior would be just as unacceptable even for nubile teens. But the grey hair and rubbery rolls of exposed and sweat-glistened flesh created a visual assault seemingly offensive to some of our regular design clients, whom voiced their displeasure at having to view and alter their path to get around the sun bunnies.

Horrified, my staff paged me and pleaded for immediate action. I must admit I was a bit stumped as to how to best approach this situation. I could invite them inside to enjoy the air conditioning but on second thought, did I really want to showcase this spectacle sitting on a four-thousand dollar loveseat? No-I needed to come up with another solution. My staff was now staring at me wondering how exactly I was going to approach our sun-bathing beauties. I took a deep breath, put on a big smile and walked towards the curb squatters, still not quite sure what was going to come out of my mouth.

“Hello, ladies. I see you’re enjoying the sunshine and I wish I could join you. But, I can’t imagine this curb is too comfortable so I’m going to suggest you enjoy the lovely picnic table our neighbor has put out for his customers to enjoy. Let me give you a hand getting up.”

It worked like a charm and they were grateful for my extended hospitality. Lucky for us the neighbor location was fifty feet away on the other side of a slight ravine. Problem solved. Back inside the store my staff, whom had watched in amazement as I dislodged the offenders, begged me to tell them what I said. I told them. The lesson here is to keep smiling, align yourself in a relatable way (“wish I could join you”) and have a solution that suits everyone.

Post your funny, embarrassing story and solution.

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Misunderstandings in the Workplace – An Invitation for Conversation

What is it about communication in the workplace that invites challenge instead of cooperation? Is it ego, fear, ignorance, culture or human nature? I can hear you checking off all of those factors and maybe adding a few of your own. But the question remains… what can you do about decreasing misunderstandings at work?

Short of listing all the potential dreaded conversation scenarios and a list of possible come-backs, I’d like to invite you to explore another approach: An “Invitation to Conversation.”

The “Invitation to Conversation” is both a formula and a mindset. The approach is to look at a conversation as an invitation to join in and share an experience. If I invite you to an event, a party or out on a date you might picture a ceremony, festivities or a romantic evening. You also have the option to accept or decline my invitation. Either way, I expect a response.

If you apply this to business and you decline my invitation you have agreed to disagree. If you accept, you agree to engage in a conversation. Of course, if I don’t hear back that sets off another round of miscommunications. Unfortunately, this is all too common both in business and life.

The invitation also comes with the notion that there will be an exchange of some kind. If I invite you to a birthday party and upon your arrival I hand you a bowl, an apron, and cake-mix you may get a slice of cake in the end, but I suspect that making the birthday cake was not what you had in mind. My thoughts did not translate into your thoughts.

And that is the objective for many workplace conversations-to get me thinking the same way that you do. When you fail to confirm that your message has been interpreted the way you intended that’s the start of another communication miscue. You must take the time to ensure you have conveyed your thoughts in the best way possible and that I have interpreted them the way you intended.

The formula for the “invitation” looks like this:

Intention: What outcome do you want as a result of your message? Be honest here–otherwise everything is built on falsehood.
Information: This is your message. The actual words you speak and the way you convey them.
Interpretation: How your listener deciphers the message. It might not be the way you intended. Check first.
Interaction: This is the key component-engaging to confirm the interpretation. Did they understand as I intended?
Integration: The intended result, change, or behavior is understood, implemented and assimilated.

And this process needs to be in-time, otherwise it’s like receiving the invitation after the event. What’s the point? Use the invitation to change the way you think about engaging with others-think guest not competitor. And use the formula as a simple way to keep on track and ensure that you have been heard correctly.

This technique plus dozens more can be found in my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. Pick up a copy today.

Workplace Communication—7 Steps to Turn Resistance into Cooperation and Gain Respect

Employee resistance to change in the workplace is nothing new. Leaders and managers accept the pushback that comes when rolling out new procedures, changes in operations, shifts in hours, status, or even the loss of a prime parking space. How you deal with resistance makes the difference between gaining cooperation and respect and being viewed as an uninvolved, autocratic administrator.

Whether the resistance comes from a single dissenter or an entire department, use the following steps to gain cooperation:

Step1. Clearly state what you want, when you want it and how it will affect individual jobs. Use a firm but neutral or positive tone of voice. Refrain from conveying disappointment, anger or defeat. Your particular situation or location will dictate the appropriate vocal expression.

Step2. Decide beforehand how much time you will allot to objections, groaning and griping. Inform the person or team you are addressing about the time limit. Let them vent.

Step 3. Listen to understand concerns. What underlying emotions are behind the complaints? What are the real fears behind the protests? Often the real fears will not be voiced in the initial session and until further questioning your understanding may be based on false assumptions.

Step 4. Check your perceptions by reflecting back your understanding of the concerns. Do not allow another round of protests, rather simply check for confirmation.

Step 5. If appropriate, ask for suggestions. Not every circumstance will allow for this but to the degree that employees feel engaged in the process the quicker the cooperation. Once again, do not allow suggestions to go on forever and keep the conversation on suggestions only—not grousing. Be involved. Listen and list possibilities without judging. Put it all down. Be open to viable proposals.

Step 6. Suggest a review or an opportunity to revisit the impact of the change after a test run or implementation. This is a good practice to put into place whenever a new procedure or shift has taken place, regardless of the initial response. Small changes made at this re-visit may prevent a complete breakdown if left unchecked. This is also an excellent opportunity to increase face-time, engage employees and learn something new.

Step 7. If these steps fail, explain the costs of noncooperation. Change is what makes an organization stay competitive, robust and profitable. Dissenters may be in the wrong position or job so act accordingly.

Cooperation comes when people know and feel they are part of something bigger. Employees know that changes occur but welcome the opportunity to influence the outcome and success. However, just because you communicate openly and involve employees by asking for suggestions, does not mean they make the final decision. Be a leader—listen, learn and them implement.

Now get your FREE 6-Part Audio Series – The Power of Effective Communication.  For more tips like the ones above pick up a copy of my book, Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say It and When to Shut Up. People love the insights and easy to apply techniques.