By Joan Garbo
Read Part 1 of "Communicating to Better Relationships" Here.
We value relationships in terms of how they serve to nurture and sustain us in our personal goals and value systems. Being self-righteous in our actions and opinions not only thwarts our relationship with others, but also ends up being self-destructive.
If we are open and responsible in our expression of our emotional reality, we will nurture the same in others, as well as attract people who can nurture and support us. We will be able to experience being known and understood, and at the same time, we will provide caring constructive criticism necessary for personal growth and development.
CLEARING THE PATH FOR OPEN COMMUNICATION
It is critical that you embrace the belief that people are doing the best they can with what they have to work; therefore, don’t try to change people—give them better tools to work with! Communication is THE primary tool for social control, and it is one that almost no one has learned to use effectively. Most of the barriers to open communication are habitual and therefore unconscious. Using a specific format will assist in making distinctions in our speaking that will support the message being listened to in an empowering way, while avoiding the confusion and mixed messages so often present in interpersonal interactions. The following guidelines are the basis for the format to be suggested:
1. Be specific! Using phrases such as always or never triggers denial in the listener. For example, “You’re always late” brings to the mind of the listener times when they were punctual, and thus negates the communication. Being specific “On Tuesday morning when you were late...” is an accurate statement and can be dealt with rationally.
2. Be responsible. The habitual statements we make put blame on others and imply they are bad, nasty, or evil intentioned. Examples include “You made me angry” or “You ruined my day”. The truth is no one “makes” you anything! They do what they do and you feel the way you feel!
“When you were 45 minutes late returning from lunch yesterday, I felt worried and upset,” informs the person what you were feeling without implying that they were out to get you.
3. Do not “zing” the other. A zinger is a covert attack. For example, “When you came back from lunch 45 minutes late, like you usually do...” The zinger defeats the intent to communicate and is an attempt to shame the other.
4. Do not “story tell”. Stick to the specifics of the incident without going back into history, or giving extraneous details that not only cloud the real issue, but also tend to “martyr” the speaker and blame or shame the other.
5. Listen openly. It is essential when someone is communicating to you what their upset or problem is that you draw distinctions in your listening. When someone says, “When you did X, I felt Y,” — they are not saying you’re a rotten person, or you intended to hurt them. They are saying that they have a reaction to something you did that you may or may not be aware of. By bringing it to your attention, they intend to clear the way for you and the other to be back in full relationship. In other words, they are communicating in order to be closer to you. The most important thing the listener can do is simply GET IT! DO NOT try to justify why you did what you did, or explain it. Know that the speaker would not tell you anything if they thought the relationship with you wasn’t worth it. When people communicate that which is not working for them, they are pointing to a breakdown— something that isn’t working within a specific system. You are not THE system; you are part of a system. You must learn to trust that responsible and effective communication is the way to create corrections in the system. When you learn to trust this, listening with compassion for the other becomes easier, and empowers you to show you care or are concerned about the speaker’s feelings. Rather than deflecting what is said to you, thank the person for telling you and when appropriate, apologize.
SUGGESTED FORMAT FOR COMMUNICATING PROBLEMS AND UPSETS
(Name of person), when you (state specifically what happened ), I felt (express the feeling you had).
When you have brought up a situation that isn’t working for you, be sure to have a request that can be the solution to the problem. It is important that you not just complain. The format for a request needs to be specific as well.
I request that (name of person or persons) (state the action to be taken) by (date to be done.)
When a request is made, the listener can accept the request as it is stated, or can negotiate the conditions until both parties are satisfied.
GIVING COMPLIMENTS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
While it’s important to “clear the air”, it is equally, if not more, important to acknowledge the people in your life and let them know how much you appreciate them and what they do. Some of the same guidelines apply. In other words, be specific, and let them know how you feel. The following is an example of an empowering acknowledgement.
“Susan, when you stayed an extra hour on Tuesday to help me get the insurance forms completed and in the mail, I felt supported and grateful and proud to be on the same team with you.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
EQUIPPING ALL LEVELS—FROM THE NOVICE TO THE SEASONED PROFESSIONAL— WITH THE BEST TOOLS OF THE TRADE, JOAN GARBO HAS BEEN A NATIONAL CONSULTANT, TRAINER, AND PUBLIC SPEAKER SINCE 1978. SHE HAS APPLIED HER EXTENSIVE TRAINING AND EXPERIENCE IN LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT TO COMMUNICATION AND RELATIONSHIPS IN THE WORKPLACE. FOR THE PAST 25 YEARS, JOAN HAS SPECIALIZED IN CONSULTING AND TRAINING BUSINESS OWNERS AND THEIR EMPLOYEES IN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION SKILLS, TEAM-BUILDING, EXECUTIVE COACHING, AND HOW THESE IMPACT CUSTOMER SERVICE. JOAN IS DEDICATED TO SUPPORTING PROFESSIONALS IN CREATING WORK ENVIRONMENTS THAT ARE NURTURING, PRODUCTIVE, AND PROSPEROUS TO MANAGEMENT, EMPLOYEES, AND CLIENTS. JOAN CAN BE REACHED BY BY E-MAIL AT JOAN@JOANGARBO.COM, PHONE AT (631) 608-2979. JOAN GARBO CONSULTANTS, 19 GLEN LANE, COPIAGUE NY 11726. WWW.JOANGARBO.COM