"Would you mind if I keep the oil warmer in my bathroom? And will you get it for me?"
As soon as I finished my sentence, I wondered, "What am I really asking here?" I knew he'd be happy for me to keep it in my bathroom. I just wanted him to get it for me, since it was beyond my reach. So why didn't I just ask?
He laughed a little at the question and happily fetched it for me. Not a big deal in this case, but communication habits are tenacious—and fascinating.
I used to write about Poison Phrases . Who knows - I might start again. But I felt limited by that category because what is poison in one situation is helpful in others. So I'm working with the header Synergy Sabotage - trying it on for size.
Mark works for a company that manages by consensus. Everyone needs to agree before they can move forward with a decision. In theory, anyway.
In terms of The Synergy Center, requiring unanimous consensus for everything can be too extreme and cumbersome. It over-compensates for command-and-control leadership. While it assures every voice is heard, it can be unmanageable. But this post is about something else.
At a company meeting, Mark strongly disagreed with a decision that the IT director favored. The group overrode Mark because "only one person objects."
Not walking the talk is synergy sabotage. If your principles say you decide by consensus and then you don't, you've lost a lot more than the support of the person whom you overrode. You've lost your compass. You've lost trust. People get the message that principles don't matter when they are inconvenient.
While I don't recommend unanimity for all decisions, I'm even more passionate about the need to say what you do and do what you say. If you find that unmanageable, don't just throw your principles under the bus. Live them or revise them and live that.
Now Mark is actively looking for other employment.
Another option would be to address the inconsistency. To say:
When I coach people over time, they often will communicate an observation or insight that I've made many times as if they just discovered it. It can be tempting for me to say,
Even if I've been pointing at something for months or even years, the fact is, they just discovered it.
For example, when someone sees the embedded images in a magic eye illustration for the first time, it's a new discovery for them. It doesn't matter if others have seen them for a long time.
Discovery can be very exciting, so when someone makes a discovery, don't let your ego usurp the delight by pointing out that they are only now seeing something you've known all along. Share the joy of the discovery without concerning yourself about where it came from.
Here's another twist. If they don't recognize your role in a discovery, it could be a sign of your skill. Great communication plants seeds that lead others to draw their own conclusions. Remember that, so when your ego wants to say, "well duh," you can tell it,
Do you see the heart embedded in the rose illustration above? It's there. If you've developed your magic eye, you know that joy of discovery already. If you haven't, you've got a treat in store for you. Have a delightful time with it!
Steve Jobs did not make is easy to differ from him. But his strongest members learned to do it. And while they suffered his wrath, they also won the respect of their colleagues.
Jobs knew his team gave a yearly award to the one who stood up to him the best, and he liked it. Can you imagine, taking pride in making it take an act of courage for the experts you hire to speak the truth to you? As revolutionary as the Mac was, it's interesting to ponder what might have been in a climate of collaboration rather than intimidation.
Here's an interesting tidbit from the author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain. By paralyzing facial muscles, Botox deprives the brain of certain signals that it uses to determine one's own emotional state. Botox injections actually impair your capacity to decode your own emotions! Plus it impairs your ability to decode other's emotions through subtly simulating and mirroring their emotional state with mini-facial expressions of your own. If you can't make facial expressions because your face is paralyzed, then your ability to understand emotional states is impaired.
Fascinating, huh! Ever met anyone with a frozen smile on their face? I have. Botox isnt the only facial expression inhibitor. If you hide your pain, confusion, anger, etc. behind a smile, you're probably fooling yourself even more than anyone else! I know when I talk with someone whose facial expressions are unnatural, I pretty much know I can't trust what I see - but don't always know what I can trust. Makes me a little crazy!
Here's a guy who hasn't had Botox... Well - at least he's easy to read...
Boundaries define us. The term "no" helps us set boundaries. If you have a problem with saying no, one practice or kata you can apply, is a "yes fast."
I talked about that yesterday in the Communication Kata webinar. You can download the slides and view the replay. You can also view the slides on SlideShare here.
A kata is a practice or form that develops new skill. It's also a way of aligning, or synchronizing different elements. Like who you are and what you can and want to do, with what's being asked of you, as one example.
A "yes fast" is a practice that overcomes one of the biggest barriers to effective communication - the inability to say no. I went on a yes fast many years ago when I realized I needed better boundaries. I went for six months without responding with a yes on the spot. Even if I knew for sure I wanted to say yes, in that six month period I would reply with something like,
Then I would come back with a yes. That practice broke the yes habit, and allowed me to say yes out of choice, not habit.
By saying no, I don't do business that way, I developed the ability to say, yes, that is how I do business.
By saying, no, I won't bend on that principle, I was able to know when it did make sense to bend.
By saying, no, I'm not willing to compromise, I learned to collaborate without compromise.
By saying, no, I'm not going to respond with a yes just because someone wants me to, I developed the skill to say yes when I wanted to. And to keep going until I and we knew just what that was.
A yes fast is one of many kata or practices to develop communication excellence. The webinar provided a framework for using the kata in a focused way. Can you use the kata without the steps that lead to their application? Let me think about it. Yes, BUT, you'll only get a partial result. Or, in other words, yes, AND, if you use them in context, you'll have a strong foundation and get better results. More importantly, you'll get the results you want, not just random experiences.
I'd been trying to find a time to meet with "Darla," and emailed a possible time. My email said,
Darla replied, "Friday would be great. What time?"
It didn't surprise me a bit to note that her reply came from a mobile device. They're harder to read, and people are often on the go when they use them. And that is what happens when we rush. We miss things that are right in front of us.
I learned a lot about Darla in that quick response. If I didn't understand the dynamics, I might think she's not so bright. But she holds down a very responsible job. I can't conclude she lacks intelligence, but I can conclude that I need to be aware of the fact that she can reply without understanding. I will communicate with her differently than someone who considers every word. I'll check her facts and reconfirm our agreements and take more responsibility for the effectiveness of our communication.
It's amazing how much we can learn about someone from a six-word email. Or a short blog post - which is why I'll run spell-check on this before I hit save.
Last April, when I created an MP3 audio about how to communicate in a beyond-busy world, I didn’t realize I was about to become one of those people myself. When people become insanely busy, it changes how they communicate, and how you communicate with them.
My projects had me working so diligently that I found myself skimming emails, not getting back to people as quickly or thoughtfully as I like to, and even letting some things slip through the cracks - including my blog posts and newsletter. Now, after such a long silence, it seems like I should write something profound – give you pearls of wisdom from the mountaintop I’ve been on. Well, here's my main conclusion.
If I'm too busy to send a newsletter at least once a month, I'm too busy! I'm so happy to be back. To celebrate, I'm making my Beyond-Busy audio available to you free for the rest of November. You'll need the skills to prepare you for the holiday rush, so you and those you communicate with will stay connected and aligned as you navigate the busy month ahead.
Even good arguments have counter arguments. So how do you note alternative views without sounding like you're being... argumentative?
It helps if you define what you're doing. For example, you could say,
This invites the other person to align with you in an effort to see what value, if any, other perspectives offer to a discussion. It keeps you from being two people on the opposite side of a discussion to two people side-by-side looking at a challenge, considering perspectives.
Oh - I LOVE collaboration! Adversarial communication brings out different views, too, but ultimately it's a barrier to effective communication skills. People are too busy trying to win to be able to hear reason, logic and truth.
I love looking at words and considering their roots and deeper intent. Today I was reflecting on how the term in decision got a bad rap. It comes from "in" and "decision". So being in decision implies to me that you're taking the time to decide, not that you're being weak or wishy-washy. Of course it doesn't work for any of us to be perpetually in decision. But there is too much of a signal that people being in decision for a while is not a sign of leadership.
Then there's "mistake". Think of a miss take like in a film. Cut! Run the scene again!
I am an advocate of continuous improvement and am personally motivated toward developing excellence. That requires the willingness to be in decision until decided and to have miss takes. That's how I learn. It's how we all learn. Powering through and feigning perfection is a barrier to natural striving toward perfection. Generally, I find words to be far more forgiving than we interpret them to be.
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I blog daily when I have a lot to say. When I don't have much to say, I stay silent. Kind of how it outta be, don't you think? Lots of great communication tips.
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Collaborative communication skills for today's busy workplace