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Caldwell: Mastering communication can benefit employees, management

Published: Saturday, June 7, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Survey results continually show that communication problems are at the top of both employees’ and management’s frustration lists. People want to communicate effectively, but it is neither easy nor effortless. There is often a disconnect between what one person said and what the other person actually heard. Unchecked miscommunication leads to confusion, hurt feelings and, at worst, a loss of trust. It need not be that way. 

Now more than ever, successfully communicating your plans and priorities to your employees, colleagues and partners is critical to your professional and personal success. The following actions are the keys to implementing the Communication Mastery process.

Forget the Golden Rule and remember the Platinum Rule: Growing up we were all taught to follow the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The basic premise is that we should treat other people the way that we like to be treated. But when it comes to communication, the more personalized treatment the better, hence the Platinum Rule. A mentor of mine, Dr. Tony Allesandra, created the Platinum Rule, which says: “Communicate with others in the way in which they want to receive it.” This is a more effective way of relating to people. By giving the recipients what they want, the way they want it, you can build stronger relationships professionally and personally.

Get into their world: When communicating, be able to answer your listener’s subconscious question which is “So what?” and “WIIFM – What’s In It For Me?” Tune into their self-interest channel for better reception and connection. Engage your listener’s three senses by tapping into their auditory (the way they hear your message), visual (the way they see your message) or kinesthetic (the way they are feeling about your message) preferences. Ask curious questions, such as: “How do you like to receive information?” and “How can we communicate better?” You will build a solid connection between you and them. Use this information to understand the listener’s communication style and find ways to adapt to it. 

Engage in a dialogue, not a monologue: Listen with your eyes, ears, mind and heart. Look and listen for what is behind the other person’s words and you will discover what they are not saying. What does their body language tell you about their real concerns and issues? What is the “great unsaid” that, if discovered, could transform your relationship, solve a problem or present an opportunity?

Turn off your self-talk and the “committee” in your head: It is impossible to hear what the other person is saying if your own thoughts are getting in the way. Do not multitask. Listen. Truly listen. Do not wait for your turn to talk. Remember the truism, “Nature has given us two ears but only one mouth and we’re obliged to use them in that proportion.”  

If you are really present with the other person, with a commitment to connect and understand, your attention will not wander and you will give the person the gift of being heard, and in being heard will feel appreciated. 

To keep my attentive listening sharp, I use the acronym WAIT (for Why Am I Talking?) posted on a note right by my phone. The WAIT reminder helps me to take a deep breath and pause before speaking. By using WAIT, I create a space for new ideas to immerge.

Seek first to understand. Clarity can be had by replaying what the other person said to you. Tell them what you heard by stating, “I heard you say ...” To be sure the other person’s thought has been completely expressed, and then ask, “Is there more?” When you really hear what the other person is trying to communicate, you naturally build rapport and increase trust. This creates a positive relationship and there will naturally be more frequent and open dialogue.

Speak to be understood: When communicating face to face or in written communication, take ownership of your message. Use statements such as “I request” or “I need,” and be specific with your requirements. Do not expect others to anticipate or guess what you need and when you need it. Ask for feedback to make sure that the other person understands you and you have an agreement about the deliverables and the timeline. Follow up on your communication to make certain that what you requested is being implemented. If there is an issue, chances are there was a communication “breakdown” and you need to restart the communication process.

Communicating masterfully is not an easy process. It takes commitment, time and practice. By employing these key actions and being curious, you can develop deeper relationships, improve your business and enjoy yourself and others along the way. 

• Kathleen Caldwell is president of Caldwell Consulting Group and the founder of the WHEE Institute (Wealthy, Healthy, Energetic Edge) of Woodstock. Reach her at www.caldwellconsulting.biz, kathleen@caldwellconsulting.biz or 815-206-4014.

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