So far we’ve covered 9 major communication struggles submitted during the AIMS Safety Seminar in January.
Here are 3 more:
Biggest communication struggle: Being approachable by others
It’s REALLY hard to communicate if others don’t feel like they can approach you. The remedy to this is firmly seated in the concept of actions speaking much louder than words.
This is partly because we “listen” with our eyes, as well as our ears. Since seeing is believing, we tend to believe the things we see over the things we hear. And here’s why…
Most of our communication from another person comes from body language. There are many studies out there about this, but the one I am most familiar with puts body language, or non-verbals, at about 55% of the communication. 55%. That’s over half, sports fans.
That means that over half of what we BELIEVE about what someone is telling us is communicated not through words, but through their actions. So… when you tell someone that you are “listening”, but you are also checking your phone or finishing an email on your computer, you are sending a mixed message at best. As worst, and I hate to be a pessimist here, you are stating that you are actually NOT listening and that you have better things to do.
Be conscience of your approach when others are trying to approach you… you are likely somehow putting off a vibe that you really don’t want to be bothered, otherwise people would believe you when you say your door is always open.
Watch your actions (distractions), facial expressions, body posture and tone in your reply. You can smile, lean in, and make eye contact while someone is talking to you, but if your reply is snarky, or filled with “that was the dumbest thing I have ever heard” words, tone and expressions, you will erase all of your approachable goodwill.
Biggest communication struggle: Clarity when communicating with certain people
THOSE PEOPLE! Everyone has certain people that just rub you the wrong way, or that you have trouble getting through to. They likely aren’t going to change, so you have to find a way to adapt to be successful.
And chances are, you are already doing this to some extent. You already know that there are some people you can joke with, some you can’t. Some people crave the facts, others shoot from the hip. There is no right or wrong, they are just different.
To me, this is where understanding behavioral and communication tendencies is most helpful (like using the DiSC profile to determine communication styles). Knowing that a different style isn’t a personal attack goes a long way in encouraging patience and understanding. We are all “wired” a certain way, and sometimes those “ways” are at odds with each other.
When that happens, it’s important to know what the other person wants and needs in terms of communication. If they need facts and data, give them that. If they need time to process, give them that. If they need direct and efficient answers… do you see where this is going? Being clear with another person is about their clarity, not yours.
When I hear leaders say things like, “they should know better!” I challenge them and say, “why? Why should they know better?” “Well, they just should!” Have you taken the time to show them, have you taken the time to answer their questions, have you observed them to know if they do know better or not? Maybe you weren’t as clear as you needed to be for them. It was clear in your mind, but clearly not theirs.
If you pay attention, people will tell you what they need.
When someone interrupts: (they could just be rude!) but it could also be because your message is jumbled and lacking focus. They don’t get it, and need to understand the first part before moving on to the second part.
When someone doesn’t initially respond: They likely need time to process everything you just said. They take it all in and THEN formulate their response. If you keep talking, they will keep processing. You need stop periodically to give them time to respond.
When someone responds with something from left field: Chances are they are distracted by other things going on or they completely misinterpreted what you said. You can try your message again in a different way, or find a better time when other distractions are minimized.
When it comes to communication, what works for you does not always work for others. Your job as a leader is to adapt to give them what they need, so you can get what you need.
Biggest communication struggle: Handling insulting, violent people who exaggerate
In my experience, people who hurl insults, get violent and exaggerate for effect are doing so because of some unmet emotional need, or some issue that has not been resolved.
That means that we have to deal with the emotion first, before any other logical conversation can take place. This is also about what you tolerate as a leader.
And I’d like to start there first, with what you tolerate. There are things that we encourage as leaders, and there are things we tolerate. If we tolerate insulting, violent, exaggerating behavior, then we have no one else to blame but ourselves when it continues to happen. You have to know where your, and your companies standards of behavior are, and I would imagine that most employee handbooks contain a section that specifically denounces these behaviors, and even outlines steps for disciplinary action. If that’s the case and it’s still happening, you have an enforcement problem. That’s on you.
What if it’s a guest? I was once dealing with an upset guest who stated, in front of my staff and any other guest within earshot, that “If this company was run by Jewish people, it would be run much differently”. And while her comment was actually intended to say that Jewish people knew how to run a business, it was completely inappropriate in that setting. My next statement was, “this conversation is over, I am going to ask you to leave the park now.”
She then did a 180… apologizing for her comment and becoming much easier to talk to because she knew her shenanigans were not going to be tolerated.
Getting back to the emotional issues, I find that the L.A.S.T. model is extremely effective in diffusing these situations.
Listen – listen to what they have to say, let them vent (to a point if they are getting insulting, violent and loud).
Apologize/Acknowledge – If an apology is needed, even if you were not at fault, say so. A sincere “I’m sorry” will diffuse a lot of anger. Sometimes, an acknowledgement of the situation is more appropriate. “I understand you are upset, and I want to help. I can’t do that if you are being inappropriate. This behavior is unacceptable and cannot continue if you want me to help you.”
Solve – Now, once you talked the person off the ledge or acknowledged the situation, you can work toward a resolution.
Thank – This is another acknowledgement… “thank you for allowing me to help”, “thank you for being calm and working through the issue”… whatever is appropriate. It’s a nice way to close it out.
Specifically for the exaggerators, once you have them calmed down, you can ask if the situation was really as bad as they said, or present some counter data that would allow them to save face and see the true story. Last thing you want to do once you have someone calm enough to discuss things logically is to stir the pot and rile them up again.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for Part 5, our last installment of the series!
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