Saturday, 29 April 2017

The top 10 things to remember when communicating

I turned up at the garden centre yesterday to realise we hadn't agreed whereabouts in the garden centre we'd meet. I'd not met the person before, and whilst we both did have a LinkedIn profile picture to refer to, in a busy garden centre that wasn't going to be of much help.

I headed for the cafe entrance, and when they hadn't appeared at the agreed time I decided they might be waiting for me inside the cafe, and so walked in and looked around hoping to get eye contact with someone who was looking for someone who looked like me!  

Isn't that what we're doing all the time - communicating and thinking it's clear, and only realising the error of our ways when we come to act on the communication. It's just too easy to get it wrong without realising it.

I've written a lot about communication here on the Purchasing Coach blog, and today thought I'd share the top 10 things to remember when communicating with others - ie the aspects of communication that I think make the most difference.    

I suspect if we broke-down communication into it's component elements we'd discover that it includes:
  • Who is doing the communicating
  • Who is the recipient of the communication 
  • The intended outcome of the communication - the why? 
  • The information being communicated 
  • The means of communication
An internet search suggests we might want to include: body language, non verbal communication, listening, clarity, empathy, friendliness, confidence, open-mindedness, respect, questioning, reflecting, clarification, rapport, charisma, assertiveness and so on and on. 

As you reflect on this list are there any that surprise you? Have I missed anything? Which of these topics would you consider you excel in? What about areas for development? 

I'm not suggesting I disagree with any of the above topics. I just think if we're not careful we end up over simplifying the nuances that can often result in miscommunication. 

It's these nuances I'd like to highlight in this top 10.

1. They're not you
The other person does not have the same information as you do, they don't think like you do, and they have different preferences to you. 

It's very dangerous therefore to assume they're just like you, and to tell them what you'd like to hear just as you'd like to hear it. More here

2. How you see the world is inaccurate/false 
With so much information to take in we can only take in a small fraction of that information. We therefore have to filter the data, and the means by which we filter include our memories, beliefs, and values. More here.

3. Your values will be motivating your judgement of the situation
Values motivate our actions and help us achieve what we achieve - they explain why some people are inspired to climb Everest, and why others have never left their home town.
Values are also the means by which we judge others. That is, I might get very angry about how someone is behaving towards me, and someone else can look on and wonder why I've got into such a state. The difference in reaction will be due to our values - the person is compromising one of my core values, and not any of the other person's.

More here on your values, and this on respect (because we all have different definitions of what it looks, sounds and feels like).

I've also written a post on how to take account of stakeholder's values in your communication too.

4. They're often mirroring your own behaviour
There's likely to be circumstances where you also demonstrate the same behaviour, that you're experiencing from the other person, and yet you're getting frustrated with them about. More here.

5. Words have power
We use words assuming that there's common understanding about what those words mean, and that there will be a positive impact.

I use chocolate in workshops as an example of how many different representations we might have for such a seemingly simple word.

Other posts have looked at the different responses to words such as answers vs solutions, transformation and change, and indiscriminate use of 'they' when apportioning blame for the current situation.

The sayings we use also provide such a rich source of information to help find solutions whether that's going around in circles, or can't see the wood for the trees.

6. Stand in their shoes
If you're having problems communicating with another person the quickest way I know of obtaining insight is to stand in their shoes. To physically imagine standing in their shoes. It's one of the most frequently used tools in my training and coaching sessions. I'd suggest I have a 75% success rate of using it with others, and obtaining helpful insight. More here.

7. You can change how you say something, and still be true to yourself
One of the most frequent responses when someone is asked to flex their style during training or coaching sessions is "why do I have to change - why can't I just say it as I want to say it, and make them adapt to my style rather than me adapt to theirs."

My response in training sessions often involves me enacting this picture, where understanding between you and the other person is the door. You can push all you want but understanding will only be achieved if you open the door.

8. You need to be in the right state of mind and body
It's no surprise that miscommunication arises when we often rush into a meeting having taken no time to prepare or catch our breath, sometimes without eating, drinking water, and perhaps even after an argument with someone before.

It is imperative, therefore that we consider our own state before any meeting, and have a handy strategy for shifting into a resourceful and appropriate state before walking through the door. See links for how do it in meetings here, and how to develop your own prescription for positivity.   

9. Try using a metaphor
If a picture paints a thousand words, then a metaphor paints a thousand pictures.

I can talk to a stakeholder all day using procurement speak and data we find interesting, and bore them senseless. Yet talk about needing to feed, weed, prune, mow, and water suppliers, just like you would plants in a garden, and they're engaged and asking what they can do to remove the tree/supplier that's uprooting the foundations. More here.

10. Try using Unconventional tools
Use of unconventional tools can often help to bypass the resistance we have to change or finding a solution.

We used pipe cleaners in a workshop last year where we were exploring what turned out to be different aspects of communication gone wrong with stakeholders and suppliers.

If you're still unconvinced you may want to read my post 'where has convention every got us'.

I'd love to know what you would have included in your top 10 of things to remember when communicating - do please leave comments below.

What soft skill would you like to develop, and what steps can you take to start the journey?

Always happy to help.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Unlocking Procurement Potential Using Unconventional Tools. +44(0)7770 538159

A selection of postcards written to procurement from your soft skills have been brought together in the Purchasing Coach Soft Skills Toolkit. You can find more about buying the Toolkit here - for personal use (at a cost of only £4.99) or organisationally (cost on request).

The aim of the postcards is to bring soft skills development out of your subconscious, and into your conscious awareness. Doing that enables you to start an exploration about what the soft skill is all about, what the benefits might be if used effectively, what your level of competency is with respect to that skill, what good and not so good looks like, and how you might develop the skill further.

Other postcards shared on this blog have covered an introductionchange management, emotions, confidence and there's also a post on how to use the postcards to develop your soft skills (on your own or in groups).

A toolkit entitled Dear Human, with love from your Soft skills has also been developed, and is available for non Procurement professionals wanting to develop their soft skills.

© Alison Smith 2017

1 comment:

  1. Loved this! There were some great tips that aren't usually mentioned in most communication articles (particularly liked mention of values and of unconventional tools). Thank you for sharing this information.