Strategy — The Key to Successful Communicating


On the final night of my UCLA class last quarter, Brad told me that he looked forward to every class and had learned a lot. Then he smiled and said these immortal words: “I still don’t see why I have to change just to please people, so I’m not going to.”

Sadly, Brad didn’t understand that I’m not interested in showing folks how to become “people pleasers.” Rather, my over-arching goal is to show people how to become smart and strategic communicators.

Strategy. That’s the key word.

The reason why we communicate is to get our needs met and so no one way of communicating fits all scenarios. If you talk the same way to every person you deal with, then you’re reducing your chances for getting heard and understood.

A friend of mine who is a priest likes to tell the story of his first funeral which was for an elderly parishioner. Since he’d never presided at a funeral, he was nervous when he went to the funeral home for the viewing.

The funeral director informed him that the deceased was survived by three adult daughters. When my friend entered the viewing room he immediately went over to one of the daughters, extended his hand, and in a sincere tone of voice said, “I’m sorry for your loss; I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you.” The woman smiled and with a wave of her hand said, “That’s okay; he was a mean s.o.b. and we’re all happy to see him go!”

My friend had gone to the viewing on autopilot and said what he thought he was supposed to say. He didn’t strategize. He presumed that the daughters needed sympathy and comfort. But they didn’t. My friend first should have asked the funeral director about the “emotional temperature” in the room, so as to gauge his words and demeanor.

Just because a certain context calls for a presumed emotion, that doesn’t mean the person(s) involved is going to be feeling that specific way.

All good communication is about strategizing, which means it’s important to consider these three questions: Who’s involved? What’s the context? What’s my goal? Answer these questions and you can then strategize how you’re going to approach someone.

This is true in our personal lives and equally true in business where the stakes are high.

Therefore, your primary goal isn’t to please people. Rather, it’s to create a mutually satisfying relationship. And that’s done by figuring out how to communicate with the other person in a way that makes it as easy as possible for her or him to hear and understand you.

Only then can your goals have the chance to be mutually satisfied.

Please send your questions to JP Reynolds at:

Follow me on Twitter: @jprweddings

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