Marion's Communication Tips
Marion Grobb Finkelstein offers practical, proven and powerful communication tips you can put to use in the workplace. She'll help you increase morale, confidence and productivity by changing the way you communicate. You'll have communication tools to connect with colleagues, clients, employees and bosses... fast!
Think about the last time you were upset, so ripping mad you could scream. Now think about the words and language you told yourself or others. Did your language become more, um, er ... "colorful"? Was it exceptionally emotive and passionate? Did it make a sailor blush? (No offence to sailors ;o)
Sure, there's a time and a place for just about every type of language and vocabulary. Chatting with friends or a confidante, go ahead and let it all hang out. Vent until your heart is content. However, when it comes to matters of the workplace, choose your words carefully. Once you say them, they can't be unsaid. Sure, you can apologize, make a joke of it, treat it as lightly as possible, and that might work. It might not. Just like trying to unscramble eggs, there's no undoing words that have been spoken. They will hang in the air and affect relationships and reputations.
Before someone lashes out and says something inappropriate, there's usually an event or series of events leading up to this climax. It's often a small incident that triggers what seems to be an overreaction. Here's the key:
COMMUNICATION TIP: speak out while you still are in control
Sometimes, you're upset and you tell yourself to say nothing. You squish down the anger, the sadness, the disappointment. You tell yourself to suck it up and move forward. Yet, deep in your heart, that "something" still bothers you. It keeps you up at night. It consumes your free moments. You find yourself fantasizing about really telling a person off. You have make-believe conversations to this irritating work mate as if he or she were standing beside you and you were saying what's really on your mind ... and boy, do you! These are all signs that you're reaching a limit. Address the issue before a straw breaks the camel's back and you snap. Be aware when something is bothering you, and then (this is the tough part), manage the situation.
Like many tough times in life, it boils down to you having three choices:
CHOICE #1) accept it (which means that truly, in your heart, you're OK with the situation, the person, the status quo. You have no more right or compunction to complain)
CHOICE #2) change it (change your reaction, how you respond)
CHOICE #3) leave (remove yourself from the situation or irritant)
Suppose you choose to "change it", to do something about how you are reacting. It might be that t ...more
Clean Up Your Image
Until next time, here's to ...
© 2011 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
TAKE A WALK IN THEIR SHOES
A number of years ago, one of my best friends shared with me a rather interesting question she'd been posed in a job interview. The person considering her for a position leaned across the table and asked, "If you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be?". Say what? (Don't worry, this is not a "shoe" article ... read on and you'll see where I'm going with this).
It sounds a little out there, maybe even odd, to present such a whimsical question during a serious job interview. Some may even call it flippant. I believe it was brilliant. Shoes speak volumes about what people value. Think about it -- what type of shoes do YOU wear? What are you wearing right now, and how do they make you feel? Comfortable, sporty, sexy, powerful, authoriative, rich, poor, newbie or professional? Any red-blooded fashionista worth his or her weight in salt will tell you that you can change the whole look of an outfit simply by changing the shoes. They change your perspective both when you slip them on, and in how you appear to others. Shoes suggest if you consider comfort over style, or sacrifice feel-good for foot-pinching to obtain a certain image. Shoes and how well they fit, affect your mood and confidence. When you're wearing certain shoes, they provide a unique perspective of the world and of yourself. Hence, the importance of stepping into someone else's shoes to really understand his or her perspective. That's how you connect.
COMMUNICATION TIP: To understand, take a walk in their shoes.
There, I told you at the start that this article is not about "shoes" literally, just figuratively. You can see how physically changing shoes would allow you to feel differently and appreciate how someone else might feel in them. The same is true figuratively and in how you communicate. It changes your perspective and breeds understanding -- and that, right there, is the essence that feeds good communication: come from a place of understanding.
Sometimes things look pretty good at first blush and it's not until we actually try on the situation for size that we realize it's not quite as comfy as it appears. Just like a pair of shoes that look perfect, we don't know what they feel like until we have them on. We begin to appreciate that someone appears grouchy and off-balance because something in their life isn't fitting right.
I encourage you to consider these two facts:
1) Everyone behaves how they do for a reason
2) That reason is an explanation, not an excuse. ...more
Why People Interrupt (and what to do about it)Have you ever been speaking with a colleague, client, boss or employee and it seems no matter what you do, you keep getting interrupted? You begin a sentence, then suddenly, someone jumps in to complete it. Even if the person is right on target with your thoughts, you find it frustrating. Worse yet, is when the interrupter takes your half-finished thought in a completely different direction than you'd intended. And he or she would have known that, if he or she had only let you finish without interrupting. Grrrrrrrr ...
Maddening, isn't it? Makes you feel like you're not being heard. If it happens often enough, you may even stop injecting comments into the conversation. "Why bother?", you tell yourself, "I'm only going to be cut off". Soon you convince yourself it's not worth the effort. Further, you conclude that the person interrupting is an insensitive boar who is so intent on getting his or her message out, that they walk all over yours.
The end result? Your relationship suffers. You feel a great sense of disconnect toward this person, perhaps even anger and resentment.
At a moment like this, you have a choice. You can allow negative emotions to usurp you, or you can choose an alternate path (and I hope you choose this one): you can shift your thinking by asking yourself if their behavior is intentional.
COMMUNICATION TIP: ASK YOURSELF IF THEY INTEND TO OFFEND? (They probably don't).
Connecting with others and communicating well begins with considering the other person's perspective. At the root of relationships is a magic seed called, "intent". Sometimes people can be painfully irritating AND simultaneously, blissfully unaware. If there is no deliberate intent on their part, it makes the behavior much more tolerable -- not necessarily acceptable, just tolerable. It will buy you a little more patience for them and their behavior if you acknowledge that you are not being deliberately targeted. They are not deliberately setting out to irritate. So why spend your limited energy being offended when none was intended?
It may be how they process.
- Here's the reality: some people interrupt because it's how they process and interpret information. In their exuberance to show you they're on the same wavelength as you, in an effort to express enthusiasm in the subject at hand, they interrupt and ironically sabotage their very efforts to connect with you. It's not meant to be rude or disrespectful. Actually, quite to the contrary -- it's often intended as a sign that they are actively engaged in what you're saying. They want to demonstrate to you that they understand so well what you're saying, that they complete the sentence for you.
It may come from a place of service.
- If you are the type of communicator that requires long pauses between thoughts as you process information, you might unknowingly be inviting this interrupting behavior. Sometimes people interrupt thinking that a prolonged pause is an invitation to fill in the blank. Or they believe they are helping provide a service to find the words for what they see as you grappling. They fill in the blanks, the voids, the dead air with thoughts they believe you are trying to express.
It may be time pressures.
- Other times, people are just rushed and need to speed up the communication process and get on to the other million tasks that beckon them. Interrupting is their way, albeit ineffective, of keeping the conversation moving at breakneck speed. They are juggling so many balls and are so time-crunched, they are oblivious as to how they are potentially damaging a relationship so they can run to the next urgent matter yelling for their attention.
It may be anger or frustration.
- If someone has tried several times to speak up and feels that they are not being heard, they may resort to interrupting. It's not right or necessarily effective. It is, however, a very human response, and we all do it from time to time. Ask yourself if this person is constantly interrupting you, or is it only when you're discussing certain volatile, emotional subjects? If he or she is angry or passionate about the subject being discussed, as frustrating as you being interrupted may be, it's less about you than it is about his or her need to be heard. It's not necessarily against you; it's for them.
POINT: people seldom interrupt with the specific intent of irritating you.
Once you understand that we're all different, it helps to build bridges between communication styles. If you're dealing with someone who interrupts, you might not be able to change his or her behavior, but you can sure change yours. If you find you're constantly being interrupted by all types of people, it might be YOUR communication style that needs tweaking. Here's some suggestions:
1) Speak faster
2) Invite comments before you complete your thought
3) Ask the interrupter to give you a sec to finish what you were saying
It all begins with how you think. Take responsibility for that piece and your role in the communication dance, and you'll be amazed at how you can change the dynamics between you and others.
THE 24-HOUR RULE
Have you ever found yourself in that awkward situation where you’re disappointed, upset or angry with someone and you don’t know quite how to tell them? It happens everyday in workplaces across the country.
When a situation is especially volatile, emotions run high, and when emotions run high, people say things they probably shouldn't. When you feel threatened, attacked or think you have a lot to lose, your instinct may be to run and hide (flight) or to fight back, hard. Running away is seldom the right thing to do, though it does have its place. Perhaps putting up a fight is exactly the right response, though replying with a knee-jerk, angst-filled reaction is not. It just won't serve you well.
Susan was a manager is a large national non-profit organization. She worked very closely with other managers and was quite successful at getting things done through influence, as she had no direct authority over the divisions of her peers. She got along with everyone except one. His name was David and he was a son-of-a-gun.
David would respond to Susan's email with point-by-point lengthy rebuttals. He would cc a barrage of people on emails which appeared to Susan as though he were grandstanding in front of an audience. Instead of working collaboratively, it appeared that he fought her solid, well-presented recommendations every step of the way.
Susan's normal response was to reply politely, professionally and promptly to David's emails that came to feel like public attacks. To break the email monotony and in the hopes of making a personal connection, every now and then she picked up the phone and responded immediately verbally then followed up with a written reply. All this was taking enormous amounts of energy and time. The opportunity cost was that Susan came in early and worked late to stay on top of the rest of her workload. It was exhausting and sucked the fun out of going in to the office every day. Every time it seemed that Susan reached out to reply to David, her hand was slapped.
Then she had an epiphany: change the dance.
After too many sleepless nights, Susan realized that she could change the dynamics of her working relationship with David by changing how she responded to him. No more would she respond immediately, especially on volatile subjects. She decided she would apply the "24-hour rule". That is, she would draft or think about her response then sit on it for 24 hours before sending it. It worked. David continued dashing off detail-laden emails, several a day, and when he got no immediate response, the emails slowed down. Susan's responses were less harried, more strategic and general in nature, and the 24-hour rule gave her more time to tend to her many other duties.
Perhaps you've found yourself in a situation similar to Susan (true story, names have been changed) where you've felt pressured to respond, or you were so upset you wanted to respond immediately. Something angers you and you feel you must reply to preserve your reputation or to present your argument before a decision is made or an action taken. Sometimes time really is of the essence, though, more often, waiting a day to respond is completely reasonable.
COMMUNICATION TIP: Apply the 24-hour rule. Give yourself time before you respond.
You Don't "HAVE TO" AnythingWords are an amazing tool in your communication tool kit. They pack a powerful punch. Like a knife, they can cut deeply and hurt or be used to free of bonds and heal. The words you choose to use can help you connect or disconnect with others.
Take a moment right now, and think about the expressions people use that drive you absolutely nuts. When you hear them, they're like nails on a chalkboard. They distance you and provoke a visceral response, perhaps anger or defensiveness, and you're not even sure why. These words and expressions are your "triggers" and touch something inside you. My guess is that people in your workplace are using these very words and expressions every day and whether you realize it or not, you're responding.
One of the most common "disconnecting" expressions I hear is "have to", as in, "You have to do this", or its sister expression, "You have to understand". No, actually, you don't "have to" do or understand anything. You may CHOOSE to do so, and choice is empowering. When someone says you "have to" do, think, or feel a certain way, it sounds like it removes your power of choice, and that's the rub.
COMMUNICATION TIP: Avoid saying "have to".
When you tell yourself or someone else "have to" do something, it makes you sound powerless and like a victim. We hear ourselves saying things like, "we have to do this project. So sorry, we'd like to stay and celebrate but we have to leave. Gee, I have to exercise and eat certain foods to maintain health". Or we plead with a colleague, "You have to understand".
You always have options. You might not like those options and decide not to exercise them, and that's very different than not having them at all. Acknowledging this fact and the responsibility you have for creating your own reality, changes the way you communicate.
A much more empowering self-talk and way to connect with others is to replace your "have to" with "will". This language implies that you have choice (however unsavoury the options may be) and that you are, in fact, exercising your own free will. Or simply replace "have to" with the present tense.
COMMUNICATION TIP: Say "will" instead.
The sentences then become: "We will do this project (OR We're doing this project). We'd like to stay but we're leaving now so we'll be up bright and early tomorrow. I will (OR do) exercise and eat certain foods to maintain health". Instead of subjecting someone else to the "have to" bug advising that they "have to understand", you say, "This will help explain", or "it's complicated for sure, let me explain"... or just drop the "You have to understand" completely.
What words and sayings are YOU telling yourself and others that could be pushing buttons? Are the words you're using empowering or implying that you or others have no choice? Could your words be misinterpreted ? Whether you intend for your words to irritate or not, do they?
The first step is awareness. Listen to yourself today and over the next couple days. See if you're using the "have to" expression. You may be completely unaware that you've incorporated these words into your lexicon, how often you use them or the impact they have on others.
The words we use affect our ability to connect with others. Remember, you don't HAVE TO implement any of these suggestions. However, you may find that you WILL because now you're aware. Good choice.
|Comments about this article? I invite you to post them below|
Until next time, here's to ...
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
© 2011 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
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Do you communicate in such a way that you raise your profile and add value to your workplace? If not, you could be missing out on some huge benefits! Why not get the recognition you deserve while serving your organization more actively?
On JULY 27th, 2011, I have the joy of presenting in Montreal at the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) Education Forum and Annual Meeting (EFAM). With this audience of administrative pros, I'll be sharing two sessions, one of which is, "How to Raise Your Profile in the Workplace".
Recently, Dr. Susan Fenner of IAAP interviewed me for this upcoming conference and other related communication subjects. If you're joining us in Montreal, you'll be able to hear my presentations in their entirety, so please consider the link below as a preview (with a few bonus subjects). If you won't be joining us in Montreal, this interview will give you a little sampling:
In this clip, I share some tips and strategies on: ...more
Have you ever watched a foreign film and sometimes the subtitles don’t seem to quite match the action on the screen? It’s a little jarring, isn't it? The same thing can happen when we communicate face to face. The gestures you use can help underscore or undermine your message.
I recently saw a person smiling as they relayed to a colleague their deepest sympathies for the death of a loved one. Most likely that smile was from nerves and the person was completely unaware that they were even doing it. Regardless of the reason, it was oddly out of place and the result was mixed messaging and inappropriate communication. Boy, did it send the wrong impression! I remember thinking if that was someone talking to me after I’d lost a loved one, I would definitely not appreciate the grin. Mixed up gestures mean mixed up messaging.
A recent study at the University of Manchester found that the use of gestures increased the accuracy with which people recalled stories by as much as 35 per cent! This tells us that using gestures -- the right ones -- can certainly enhance your communications.
How are your actions? Are your gestures and facial expressions in synch with what you're saying and what you hope to communicate? Here's a few quick quiz questions that may help:
- When you speak to someone on a sensitive or important issue, do you:
- focus your eye contact on him or her ... OR ...
- tend to look around and be easily distracted?
- When a colleague is relaying an upsetting incident, do you:
- furrow your brows (showing focus), squint your eyes a bit, lean in (showing interest) ... OR ...
- show no facial expressions at all?
- When you are interested in what someone has to say, do you:
- actively listen (maintain eye contact, keep palms up, offer neutral facial gestures) ... OR ...
- get pulled away by distractions like the phone, other people walking by, papers on your desk?
- When you want to assert yourself, do you:
- display great, straight posture ... OR ...
- curl in your shoulders and tilt your chin downward?
- When you are happy, do you:
- smile so your cheeks rise and your eyes smile too ... OR ...
- do you forget to tell your face and not smile at all?
Your challenge for today, should you chose to accept it: ensure that the gestures you use are consistent with your message. Show them your stuff by showing them what you mean... and make it consistent. ...more
QUESTION: I received news today that I was hired at another company and am returning to my (original) field of Graphic Design. ...more
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