Thursday's Thought: A Communication Tip

Look for an interesting tip or technique from us each week, gathered from a variety of resources. We look forward to sharing those tips that inspire us. We hope they motivate you as well.

Williamspeat Associates: Improving your communication skills one week at a time.

It's Not Just an Emotion

"The purpose of arguments, should not be victory, but progress." - Unknown

Aaaah… wouldn't it be wonderful if all arguments led to shared understanding, positive outcomes, and progress? If this were the case, people would embrace arguments instead of avoiding them - like a plague. One argument against arguments (I couldn't resist!) might be the feelings conjured up by a heated debate. EMOTIONS!

Emotions and arguments typically go together. However, when emotions take over it can be difficult to focus on the matter at hand. And then there's the matter of really understanding the emotions one might be experiencing.

The authors of, Crucial Conversations - Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High encourage their readers to "expand their emotional vocabulary." Most people keep it simple when it comes to describing their emotions; especially "negative" emotions. For example, a commonly expressed emotion is anger. In any given day you may hear someone say, "I'm so angry!" What could really be going on is they are feeling disrespected, unsafe or even jealous. Angry is the "go-to" or quick and easy way to describe what they might be feeling.

Here's an example of expanding emotional vocabulary:

Lou: I'm so ticked off at my son!
Jean: Really?
Lou: Yeah. He's turning into an ungrateful brat!
Jean: Whoa! What did he do?
Lou: He lost his watch.
Jean: You know teenagers. They'd lose their heads if they weren't attached to their bodies.
Lou: I'm really angry! He knew how much that watch meant to me!
Jean: Oh! The watch was special?
Lou: Yes! It was my dad's. Funny thing is - my dad never let me wear it when I was a kid. Whenever I'd ask to borrow it, he would say, "Oh, no! You'd lose your head if it wasn't attached to your body." (Laugh)
Jean: I guess his words are coming back to haunt you?
Lou: Yeah. That's exactly it. Dad's words are haunting me. I'm not angry at my son for losing the watch. I feel indirectly responsible for losing it. (EXPANDED EMOTIONAL VOCABULARY)
Lou: If only I had been a hard-nose like my dad. (Laugh)

Getting in touch with our emotions isn't easy. However, it can help us, as well as others, to understand our reactions or responses in a situation - especially an argument.

Keeping it R.E.A.L.

Is there someone in your life to whom you enjoying talking? The time just seems to fly whenever you’re with them. No matter how long you talk there never seems to be enough time. As soon as the conversation ends, you’re looking forward to the next time you’ll be talking with this person! This is a sign that R.E.A.L. talk has occurred.

R.E.A.L. talk is:

• Recognizing and Respecting
• Exploring and Expanding
• Acknowledging and Accepting
• Listening

It’s been said that, “no two people are alike,” and so it goes with communication. The conversations that keep us engaged are the talks that respect and recognize our needs in that moment. Where each party feels, “he/she gets me.” There are times when we might need someone to use warm, encouraging or comforting language in response to what we are sharing. At other times, we may need a direct to-the-point response.

Respect and recognition can be shown in a variety of ways. Asking sincere questions or sharing an appropriate anecdote are both indications that you are willing to explore and expand upon what the speaker is sharing. Imagine you’re pouring your heart out to someone and all you get is dead silence or they simply change the subject. What message might that send? They’re not interested; they’re not listening; maybe they don’t understand you; or they don’t know how to respond.

You may be thinking, “What if I don’t really agree with what’s being said? Do I have to fake it?”

In order to build trust we must have authentic conversations. However, there will be times when you can simply acknowledge and accept what is being said in the moment. Think of this as a gift you’re giving to the other person. The gift of listening without judgement. Of course you may have your thoughts and opinions to share, and in a R.E.A.L. conversation you will certainly have an opportunity to do so.

Do You Fear Public Speaking?

If you answered yes, you're not alone. Many polls show that the fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of death.

"…This means the average person would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.” - Jerry Seinfeld.

Where does all this fear come from? Let's break it down.

FEAR 1 - I'm afraid I won't know what to say.

SUGGESTION - Research, study, practice. Do what works for you, but by all means do it. Don't attempt to fake it. An audience can see through an unprepared presenter.

FEAR 2 - What if I forget what I want to say?

SUGGESTION - You're the only one who knows the content of your presentation. If you forget something let it go. There is one caveat to this: If you've omitted a critical component of your message, weave it in later in the presentation. Present it and move on.

FEAR 3 - I fear questions from the audience.

SUGGESTION - Park Them! If questions come up from the audience that you cannot answer take note of them. Having poster paper or a dry-erase board in the room will help with this. Write PARKING LOT in large letters across the top of the paper or board. Explain to the audience that this is a holding spot for any unanswered questions. During break or after the presentation be sure to research answers to the questions. Respond back to the audience within a day if possible. Email or a social media outlet may be a good method of communicating back to the audience with the answers. It will be a way for the entire audience to receive the response.

FEAR 4 - I fear how the audience will react to my presentation.

SUGGESTION - You have no control over other people. However, you may influence how they respond to your presentation by using the suggestions outlined above. When the audience senses that you are calm, cool, and collected they will relax.

In the words of Marianne Williamson, "As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Say Thank You to Your Co-workers

People want to know that they are appreciated. For some, being given a heartfelt thank you is a sign of respect. Of course there's the view that a paycheck is the "thank-you." However, a paycheck does not equate gratitude. It is simply an expected result or outcome for work rendered. Saying THANK YOU is an expression of gratitude. It is a reminder that one is appreciated and valued for their contribution. An employee will feel sincere appreciation long after the money is gone. Chances are you have seen a certificate of appreciation or a thank you note from a customer posted in a person's work area. How about a dollar bill?

If you still feel strongly that the paycheck is enough, here's an example of how you might combine salary and gratitude:

A manager in a mid-size company attaches notes to the envelopes of her employees' paychecks. They are not lengthy messages. A few words thanking the employee for his/her commitment or something specific that they've accomplished.

Taking the time to show and express gratitude to those whom you work can help to build effective workplace relationships. It can go a long way in creating a climate of employee commitment and engagement. It's also a way to boost your own positive feelings toward your work and your co-workers.

Thank you for your commitment to our posts each week. We truly appreciate your following us.

Remember to Rap with Remote Employees

Leaders build trust with their team through open, honest, and continuous communication - including small talk. However, building trust through communication can be a challenge when team members are remote. The usual light exchanges or impromptu meetings that often occur in passing between leaders and their employees, simply don't happen. Leaders have to become creative when it comes to "rapping" with remote employees.

Effective leaders know how important it is for employees to feel connected and engaged at work. Going the extra mile to connect with remote employees is not only good for the employee, it's also good for the organization.

The following suggestions may assist you with building rapport and trust with your remote team:
1. Virtual coffee breaks. Schedule time once or twice per month to meet for coffee - virtually. Engage in a casual 10-15 minute conversation to catch-up with each other. This time can be thought of as similar to those impromptu conversations that you have with team members in the break room by the coffee maker.
2. Monday meet-ups. Conduct a weekly meeting with the entire team to keep all members of the team connected and engaged.
3. Tech-talks. Use technology! Face time and video conference are the next best things to being in person.
4. Quarterly quests. Bring your remote employees into home office on a quarterly basis. Have a planned agenda for the meetings. Be sure to include a group dinner or other team-building opportunities.