The art of effective communication

In the last week’s post, I stated that most people haven’t learned the most basic rules of simply getting along. In every organization we’ve worked with, there have been unspoken and un-dealt with issues that rob people of their desire to work closely with their co-workers. For true teamwork to occur, people have to learn three fundamental rules of effective human interaction: you must keep your files empty; you must learn to communicate appropriately; and you must learn to make it safe for the people in your life to communicate to you. When files are empty, what’s present is openness, intimacy and trust, the hallmarks of nurturing relationships.

Hopefully, the first rule of effective human interaction is self evident. When things between people aren’t working the way either would like, it’s critical for them to talk about it. So let’s get to the second rule: communicating appropriately.

What makes this difficult for most people is that when one is upset or disappointed with another, it always seems like the real issue is the behavior of the other. After all, if they would just operate the way we think they should, there wouldn’t be the problem. But that statement gets to the heart of the real issue. We want people to behave the way we want them to or the way we think they should. That fact is almost always hidden inside the upset or disappointment.

I’m asserting that essentially all of your issues with others really have nothing to do with them. All of your issues stem from your unwillingness to accept people just the way they are and just the way they are not. If you could learn to be gracious and compassionate and indeed allow people to be just the way they are, and not take any of their behavior personally, you could literally go the rest of your life and never be upset with another.

Having said that, there may still be instances where you are indeed disappointed and you do want to communicate your upset to another. But now, armed with the knowledge that the real issue is your unfulfilled expectations, you can learn to address the other using the following terminology:

My expectations of you that are unfulfilled are …

I’m disappointed with you or our relationship in that …

What I had intended for you or us that has not happened is …

Can you see that all of those ways of speaking are all about you and non-confrontational? This way of speaking effectively replaces the usual accusatory ways that most people speak to each other and actually opens the door to getting issues resolved. Try this the next time you need to communicate to another and see for yourself.

The other half of communicating appropriately is the manner in which you speak. Understanding that there is another human being on the other side of your communication, it is essential that you speak with respect, with compassion and without being righteous. If you’re righteous, you’ll leave the other person feeling like you’re making them wrong and that will surely evoke a response.

Remain calm, be open and honest, and say exactly what you want to say without trying to sugar coat it. Listeners actually find it annoying when they feel you are trying to protect their feelings by being “nice.” Continue to talk about yourself and how you feel and let go of what you think the outcome will be. It will be whatever it is meant to be and you have to just trust the process.

To be continued. In the meantime, this is all explained in detail in Chapter 14 of Unshackled Leadership. Get your copy today at  

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