People often ask me what they need to do in order to become a more effective communicator. I think what every person has to do is consciously and determinedly practice doing something differently. The following are reflections from two clients (names changed) that give you a sense of what can happen through focus and determination.
1. Tracey. “The communication skill I have been working on deals with ‘perception checking.’ One thing that has really stuck with me is the notion that bullies want you to feel intimidated. I’ve been working to stop myself from getting intimidated when attacked at work. In the past, when my boss would start talking over or interrupting me, I would wait until he was done and restart what I was saying. (I was raised in a household where it was very rude to interrupt.) Now, I keep talking. I stand my ground. He doesn’t always hear me right away, but he interrupts and talks over me much less.
“I also have been asking myself why my boss acts the way he does. For example, last week when he threatened the loss of jobs if results didn’t improve, I asked myself, ‘What is his goal with this conversation?’ From my perspective, I felt like he was being a bully. After doing perception checking, I thought he might be trying to motivate us. I responded by saying that when people threaten my job, it does the exact opposite of motivating me. Instead of just getting angry that he was attacking the team, I was able to voice my feelings and affect how he will try to motivate us in the future. Once he realized that his tactic, rather than the message (results need to improve), was the issue, he changed.”
2. Roland. “I’ve started to practice better listening in my 1-on-1 conversations with: my boss, my direct reports, and my wife. I’m a very impatient person and get annoyed quickly; as a result I react without thinking things through. Often times this gets me in trouble. I realize that if I could be more patient and listen to what the other person is saying I wouldn’t react in such a negative way.
“I’m consciously forcing myself to be more ‘passive’ in sessions and go prepared to more intently listen and take notes during or right after meetings. I use the notes for my follow-up communication, especially in email. This helps me pay more attention to things that I would generally ignore. My wife has noticed the difference!
“This technique is definitely making me effective in my communication with my direct reports as it’s helped me increase their trust level.”
Want to change? Practice doing something differently — tenaciously!
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