When we ask organizations what competency they want most in their employees and leaders, the answer is usually communication. When asked why, we’re told because it’s central to teamwork, leadership, productive conflict resolution, change management, and employee engagement. If you’re struggling to kick your professional development to the next level, try our three coaching tips for better communication.
First and foremost, we must Maintain Psychological Safety or others can’t engage with us on a meaningful level. To do this we need to remember to foster three things in all of our communication:
- Humility to realize and remember that no one can have a monopoly on truth.
- Confidence to say what is most crucial and listen with an open mind.
- Skill to speak the unspeakable and leave each other grateful for the honesty.
It’s important to realize that you will communicate with people who don’t foster these three things; but that does not excuse you from maintaining psychological safety if you want to recover the conversation.
Second, we exhibit more communication competency and have more impact when we follow a process that encompasses all of the best-practices summarized by Patterson (2002) as, “S.T.A.T.E. My Path.”
- Share your facts first (facts are the least insulting)
- Tell your story (briefly and focusing on the most salient concern and avoid over-killing it). The goal of your story should be to expand your shared understanding, not to prove a point.
- Ask for others’ paths (i.e. their facts and story)
- Talk with an open-mind and do not disguise your beliefs or opinions as fact. Admit you might not have the whole picture but that you are interested in building a better one.
- Encourage the testing of your ideas and constructive criticism. The more others see that you want to play openly with the information to come to a better understanding the more willing they will be to consider your needs, wants, and proposals.
Third, use strong beliefs as a RED FLAG for yourself. The more certain we feel, the more likely we are to move out of dialogue and into debate. When we feel the need to push our ideas on others, it’s generally because we believe we’re right and everyone else is wrong. Then we feel justified in using dirty tricks and indulging in damaging cognitive biases and fallacies.
For example the Straw Man fallacy of setting up an imaginary “worst case scenario” and then defending against that instead of dealing with reality as it currently exists.
To do better when you find yourself trying to convince others your way is best, then back off your current attack and think about what you really want for the relationship.
- Learn to look/ watch for the moment when people start to resist or show signs of fatigue or frustration with the conversation.
- Try to tone down your approach by bringing your non-verbal behaviors back to neutral and change your focus to your observations on your own functioning (instead of on the broader topic).
- If you’re starting to feel indignant, or can’t figure out why others can’t see your point of view then ask for a timeout.
For more detailed help learning to be more persuasive and building effective and meaningful working relationships, check out our WorkWiser Coaching services. And if you want to receive additional in-depth, science-based information on communication, competency-based education, and professional development, please consider subscribing to our monthly newsletter via the button on our home page. (Subscribers get information only, never advertising. We won’t send you SPAM or use your email address for any other purpose. You can unsubscribe at any time.)