Tag Archive for difficult conversations

Communicating at Work – Put Your Response into Perspective

It’s difficult to keep your cool in an emotionally-charged conversation without saying something you’ll regret.

Consider the long term impact of your words.  What result will occur moments after your conversation? Will the results last more than a few moments? What about in a year from now? You’ll discover that some  conversations didn’t need to happen at all–but don’t make that an excuse for not having the ones that do.

Thinking about the long term consequences allows you to put things into perspective.  And,  perspective goes a long way towards guiding the tone, words, and intention of your communication.

Copyright 2010 Allie Casey

Excerpt from the forthcoming book —Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say it and When to Shut-up

Workplace Communication – Giving Negative Feedback

When giving negative feedback keep in mind the type of feedback you are providing:

* Is it to find a solution to a disagreement?

* Is it directions or information to shift a project that is going off course?

* Is it to express dissatisfaction concerning work, behavior, or productivity?

Asking these questions and making the distinction helps you keep focused on the response and behavior you are seeking. It’s easy to get distracted or go off course especially when your listener starts defending his position.

Try it. Leave your comments.

*This tip comes from my forthcoming book, “Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say it and When to Shut-Up! Watch for it.

Communication – The Power of the Pause!

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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Communication at Work: 3 Ways to Improve Communication and Avoid Misunderstanding

Probably everyone has experienced a misunderstanding, misinterpretation or a miscommunication at work. It seems that communication breakdowns are so common they are accepted as business as usual. Each time I ask someone if they have ever been misunderstood at work the answer is always yes– demonstrated with a shy smile, a nodding head and maybe rolling eyes. I suspect some guilt in those answers.

When I ask what the cost of such a misunderstanding might be the immediate response seems to trigger a train-of-thought ending in ‘aha’ moment. Suddenly, the real costs associated with even a simple miscommunication begin to appear like a magicians unending scarf trick. Loss of a customer today due to a misunderstanding could mean lost revenue in the future.  Loss of production time now might result in a missed opportunity later. Miscommunication with a co-worker might result in bad feelings, poor morale, less productivity or costly mistakes. In some professions the result of a misunderstanding can result in death.

Here’s how you can decrease misunderstandings and communicate more effectively:

1. Take responsibility for your communication. Whether or not you have initiated a conversation does not let you off the hook for confirming what was said and intended. Create a mind-set that releases you from being right so you have the opportunity to learn.

I recently encountered a sales clerk who refused to shift her thinking about a situation even when her supervisor explained why a garment I was returning had a different number than the receipt. As far as the clerk was concerned, I did not have a receipt and she proceeded to handle the transaction as such. This resulted in more issues, more time lost and a second round of a managers intervention. Not to mention my growing aggravation.

To the manager’s credit she did an excellent job of explaining what probably happened and after overriding a computer default she expected the return to be handled smoothly. Unfortunately, she failed to confirm the clerk’s interpretation of her message assuming she understood.

Responsibility means verifying that your message was interpreted as you intended.

2. Match your listener’s communication style. If you are a fast talker but your listener is slower paced they may miss what you are saying as they struggle to process your message. If your style is less direct and you prefer to use a lot of words when communicating you may find that someone with a direct style may lose interest, become distracted and misunderstand your message.

Observe your listener and adjust your style accordingly. If you are the receiver, listen from the speaker’s point-of-view and confirm what you’ve heard. Context is as important as content. Your frame of reference can easily distort a positive intention if it doesn’t match the speaker’s point of reference.

3. Handle a misunderstanding immediately. If something has gone wrong in the communication process open up the lines of communication as soon as possible. Often the result of a misinterpretation doesn’t come to the forefront until a further action has taken place. Rather than place blame, seek to rectify the situation and move forward.

The cost of misunderstandings is too big to ignore. Be a part of the solution by taking responsibility, shifting your style and handling misunderstandings quickly.

If you’re serious about improving your communication skills but don’t want to go back to school just 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. Do it now!

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