The Art of Communication
Over the years we have worked with many clients and teams on how to improve communication, the ability to influence and more generally how to have an impact. At each extreme, there are two typical 'communicator' profiles that can create a lot of disharmonies in teams and in meeting settings.
The aim of this article is to create a better sense of understanding of what lies beneath the surface and raise awareness that the two are not that different after all. From understanding, we can find acceptance; from the acceptance, we can find compassion.
Two Typical Communicator Profiles
'Mr' Quiet often lacks personal confidence and needs to connect with their sense of internal authority, vision and presence. For people at this end of the spectrum, better communication is about learning the art of self-expression and finding their voice.
'Mr Chattterbox' personal work often stems from feeling invisible, frustrated, and/ or misunderstood. People at this end of the spectrum generally find it difficult to get followership and support for their ideas, no matter how loud they shout or how logical their presentation is.
We will explore each of the profiles a little deeper, starting with the second 'Mr' Chatterbox. Can you relate to it? Maybe you work with someone that fits this profile and are feeling the impact of their force and frustration. Frustration in this context can feel like out and out bullying behaviour to the recipient, especially if they fall into the first profile type.
Having worked with many people who lean towards this 'dominant' style of communication the challenge and frustration is real, emotionally charged and confusing. They are generally trying to do the best for the organisation or project. They often have a clear vision, passion and experience to bring. However, they fail miserably because their energy and enthusiasm make others feel that they are dominating, not listening, going too fast, missing important details etc…
The other in this story often feels that they cannot get a word in, they feel they or their ideas are not valued or respected. This can further deteriorate their sense of confidence and creativity, leaving them falling further into the shadows.
The commonality is that both types feel unheard. Together, they fail to communicate despite positive intentions and common goals. Meetings lead to unresolved conflict, stress and poor interpersonal dynamics that make the workplace a nightmare. The negative impact on productivity and personal well-being are enormous.
What Can We Do?
The answer to breaking this dynamic lies in our ability to ask good questions so that we get the information we need to move forward. If you are the dominant character in this story – consciously introduce open questions into your speaking patterns.
Open questions begin with: what, why, how, describe and have the following characteristics:
They hand control of the conversation to the respondent – this eliminates a defensiveness response which leads the conversation nowhere
They ask the respondent to think and reflect – more likely to give you more useful information to work with.
They will give you opinions and feelings – all decisions are made from our emotional centre; open questions allow you to gage buy-in or if tension exists
E.g. What are the potential downsides or concerns? How can we manage these?
If you are on the receiving end of this high-intensity communication style you can create the space to give valuable input into the discussion by asking an open question.
E.g. What is most important for this project? Can you describe or give an example of…?
KEY: You want the objections and concerns on the table so you can work through them and find common ground! The 'Yes and...' rule is very powerful. It comes from the world of improvement where no ideas or offers can be refused, it must be accepted and built upon. Instead of a rebuttal that leads to 'sides' being created. respond with Yes, and... E.g. We need to reduce costs...Yes, and it would be smart to review our profit margins.
You can follow this with ‘What if…?’ or ‘How …?’ questions