Communicating skilfully

We cannot afford to not communicate, it’s just not possible!

I have recently found that I need a refresher on communicating skilfully. The reason for this is that when I’ve been under intense pressure, I tended to withdraw instead of confronting matters head–on.

My coach and I recently addressed this challenge, she advised me to ensure that when I get that feeling to withdraw I need take that as a signal to communicate and be open about what is giving me discomfort this then sets the other person free. For example, I arrived at work one day and found one of my colleagues upset that I had given an instruction to my subordinates to execute on a task which has never been within their set roles. This was not true of course; in fact it was a complete misunderstanding.

I had just stepped into my office and she was already on the attack, I could tell she had been stewing on this for a while and had concluded that I was wrong and had to be set straight. Her abrasive manner did not go down well with me and I was very brisk with her which in retrospect didn’t really make things any easier.

My coach had told me to, when I’d calmed down, to go back to my colleague and set the record straight then say that I would appreciate it if she directed my staff to me if they ever came to her with problems or complaints about their work. In addition she said, I should then arrange to go out for coffee and then iron out any other challenges I may have had with this individual in the past. She called this closing the loop (this is my favourite part). Closing the loop is effectively making sure that the air doesn’t remain uncomfortable. It’s the conversation where I would say “when you do …, it makes me feel… “. Then the hardest thing is allowing the other person to do the same. To close if off, you then come up with suggestions on how you can both move forward, this is also known as a win-win situation.

I have always sort of used my boss as my shield against difficult people and especially those whom I couldn’t afford a fall-out with. They, according to me, are influential and whatever they say in the organisation is taken as the truth and it influences how you are perceived by those who don’t know you well. What I didn’t realise is, conflict is inevitable and those who take charge of the situation, not through strong opinions, but by ensuring that the relationship is not a casualty, are the ones who grow and get respect. That for me was so powerful.

Similarly, I have found that the above principle applies when one is a business leader or business owner. When big things such as reputational damage or you find yourself in an unfavourable business climate, it’s so easy to hide away and hope it all goes away. However, this is not the best solution at all.

Leading people is about ensuring that you bring everyone along with you. During adversity is normally the time when you need to communicate the most with those you lead; perhaps you can’t share the facts entirely but say something to make them understand what is happening to them, to the company and what does it mean for them. They invest in the company each day through the work and time they deliver to you, and you should show them value.

It’s in The complete guide to understanding and using Neuro Linguistic Programming by Barbara Gibson that she advises we cannot, not communicate. This is true and even when we aren’t saying anything at all, we have communicated.

In closing, it’s important that this is done in a responsible manner. You need to understand that whoever you communicate with trusts you at some level , so be clear that everyone is aware of your intent and ensure that you are congruent i.e. what you say is aligned with what you do.