Blog & Insight

10 things to remember when communicating

Post from the 2017 archives. 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 and train often about 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.

See my post where I share that all 5 of us were sure our strategy for dealing with the stakeholder was right and yet our strategy was what would work for us too - 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.

For more information see my post There's three versions of any story - yours, theirs and the truth

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.

If you're not sure what your values are then you could look at what you spend your time and money on and ask 'why is that important?' - for more about understanding your values - see this post.

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.

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 with word chocolate in workshops as an example of how many different representations we might have for such a seemingly simple word. I'm sure you'll find the analysis I did on the results of this exercise interesting.

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. This post entitled problem solving when stressed shares much more about this - although so too the latest series of my Landscaping Your Life podcast where I explore being between a rock and a hard place, building bridges with others, wanting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and much more.

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.

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 the above 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.  

A question I start every training and coaching session with is "what mindset do you need to be in to achieve your goal for this meeting/training?".

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.

To find out more you may like to read my The link between mindset and metaphor post - although you'll also find much about is by following #landscapingyourlife on LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook or the Landscaping Your Life podcast.

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.

I'd love to know what you would have included in your top 10 of things to remember when communicating.

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

If you'd like to find out more about the soft skills toolkit (using postcards as shown above from your soft skills) or developing any of the skills mentioned here or in the 7 barriers to optimal performance post do get in touch alison@alisonsmith.co +44 7770 538159.


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© Alison Smith
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