Most people are really not great communicators. They assume that others see things the way they do, and/or they know what is expected of them, so they either avoid communicating or they communicate in an implicit and ineffective way.
Even those who do communicate often, do it in a much less direct and effective way then they think.
I was coaching two very seasoned and successful executives in the trust and communication between them. Each of them commanded a very large and critical division. Their divisions depended on each other for their success and the overall success of the company. Because these two executives didn’t trust each other they also didn’t communicate in a transparent and honest way and this affected the dynamic between their organizations.
One executive, who was harboring resentments and frustrations toward his peer, left our conversation with a passionate determination to have the brave and direct conversation with his peer. A few days later when I followed up with him, he acknowledged that the conversation took place, it was extremely forthright and bold and had a meaningful impact on his relationship with his peer.
I was pleased to hear this, but when I asked his colleague how the conversation went, he had a drastically different account of what transpired. In his experience, his colleague didn’t communicate openly at all or convey anything new or meaningful. From his standpoint, nothing had improved or changed.
I can’t tell you the number of times one person tells me how bold and direct the conversation was, and the second person says that wasn’t at all.
People don’t communicate in a clear, rigorous, direct and/or bold way and when they are called to the carpet, they often explain and excuse it with “It was a misunderstanding…”.
Well, on rare occasions there are misunderstandings. However, most of the time it is not a matter of “Oops!“.
Communication is the most powerful instrument, tool and/or weapon we have as human beings to build, drive, manage and/or destroy things. It is innate in our human operating system.
People simply don’t want to take responsibility for their potential power and impact, therefore they don’t want to take responsibility for their desires, requests (what they want), how they feel and/or what is working and not working for them.
It is easier and safer to stay small. The way you do that is by communicating in a vague, wishy-washy and cowardly way and blaming the circumstances and events for why things are not moving in the way you want.
There is both an art and a science to communicating effectively. The more you understand and practice the science the better you will get at the art. Here is a quick overview…
There are two dimensions to communication:
The content, which is the words that come out of your mouth; making sure they are explicit, clear and direct. Making sure the receiver of your communication receives then exactly the way you meant them.
The context, which is the intention, purpose and higher messages behind your words; making sure the receiver of your communication gets where you are coming from, what you are intending and how you feel about the words you are conveying.
For example, “Tough love” – you could be upset with someone and convey harsh words without violating their genuine experience of your great love, respect, and care for them. No contradiction.
The is a construct for conducting and managing powerful communications:
If you want to be a powerful communicator all you need in your toolbox are four tools that will enable you to achieve, drive and manage any outcome you want:
- Request an action or outcome. If you don’t explicitly ask for what you want, don’t expect to get/have it. Nothing is too big or small to request. This is so simple and so powerful!
- Promise an action or outcome. If you want people to listen to you, rely on you and invest in you, make promises and deliver them. As long as you are authentic nothing is too big or small to promise.
- Declare your stance. If you want people to know who you are, declare your stance and where you stand in areas that are important to you. Declarations create platforms for requesting and promising.
- Express your feelings. If you want people to know how you feel, tell them. Don’t expect them to already know or assume they already know. There is NO Universal Code or Master Manual for how people should behave, respond or react in key situations.
Three basic tips for being an effective communicator:
- Over communicate. Most people under-communicate or they don’t communicate at all. Even if it feels excessive to you, most likely it will feel “perfect” for people around you.
- Don’t be lazy. Be explicit, rigorous and direct with your communication. Don’t assume they understand what you mean. Go the extra mile to ensure it.
- Take responsibility for how your communication is received. After you communicate, ask the receiver to repeat back to you what you said, what they heard, what they understood and what they are taking away from your communication. Make sure it is what you intended.
It takes courage to be a powerful communicator. It takes courage to be powerful, full stop.
First, in the sea of vagueness, a powerful communicator will always stick out like a thorn.
Second, people tend to get irritated by powerful communicators who break the mode of vagueness and bring clarity, rigor, and accountability to interactions.
So, you have an opportunity to take a stand about the type of communicator you want to be, then promise what you will start and stop doing in order to turn your stand into your natural mode.