There are probably some people out there who have an ability to hear suggestions of new behavior, and simply begin implementing it. We haven’t met them, but it’s possible they exist. Much more common are regular folks like us who need a little more intentionality behind making changes.
We are kicking off a series of articles this month related to communication strategies. Engaging in effective communication is the most foundational leadership practice. The internet is full of articles and self-help resources for how to improve communication in your team, your company, or just with one problematic co-worker. So why should you read one more? Because this stuff doesn’t work.
That’s right—this stuff doesn’t work.
That is, if it’s material standing alone. Ideas are important and wonderful and great, and just ideas floating out there in the ether without… you guessed it,… ACTION.
So before we even suggest examples of how to improve your communication skills to you, we need to have a heart-to-heart talk about how to take action.
Everyone is a little different, so it’s important that you be committed to trying out various strategies until you find one that works for you.
Our favorite strategy involves good old-fashioned sit-down-and-think work. Start with the person with whom you’d like to see a change (co-worker, boss, spouse, etc.). Think about your interactions with that person, and what you don’t like about those interactions. Be as specific as possible. We’d encourage you to write down (or type out) in as much detail as you can muster where exactly is the choke point with this person. (Not literally where you want to choke them, but more like the bottleneck. Unless of course you really do want to choke them. In which case, please do write it all down so you can get it out of your system.)
Once you’ve gotten really honest with yourself about what exactly is going on, you can identify the problem area. Do you need to build more trust with this person? Is it a matter of managing conflict more effectively? What would help the relationship be more productive?
Answer those questions on a couple of levels. Chances are, there’s a gut reaction level where you might cast all responsibility onto the other person. If you’ve come to a tough spot with this person, you might feel too much anger or apathy toward them to come up with a productive solution. Once you are able to move beyond that initial reaction, look for concrete, specific things you could do in those detailed scenarios you wrote out (*ahem*, yes, we were serious) to improve your ability to communicate.
That’s the groundwork piece—learning to pick apart the specific scenario afflicting you in hopes of shedding light on how to improve it. Stay tuned—lots more to come in coming weeks!