Communication is a beautiful thing – when it goes well and everyone understands exactly as intended. And that’s why there are endless books and articles about effective communication, because while it is so crucial, it also goes awry all too often. High stakes riding on communications lead to intense emotion which can lead to missteps.
What can you do?
“To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.”
Build consensus with a shared purpose
You can do your best to remove the emotion from your message and structure your statements in such a way to reduce the potential for an emotional response. The first step is to rearrange your message to remove use of the word ‘you’. Using ‘you’ when you have something to share comes across as an accusation. So ‘You didn’t clean up the cat vomit from your cat before you left the house.’ can become ‘I had a shocking start to my morning when I almost stepped in cat vomit.’ (My apologies to anyone with a delicate constitution.)
My example is part of an ongoing power struggle, which is often the case when communications go astray in whatever context – business or personal. I’ve changed the emphasis from an accusation, but still haven’t diffused the me against you hot button.
Starting with the shocking start to the morning comment, the object is to build a sense of shared solution. The communication could be continued something like this then, ‘I heard that cats often do this because of hairballs, so I’ve done some research and found a few possible remedies. I’ll bring the information home with me so that I can show you tonight.’ Now both parties in the communication are starting to work together to relieve the cause of the conflict.
Communicate using neutral, factual statements
Changing ‘you’ to ‘I’ works better in more personal situations and when there are only a couple of participants. When you are dealing with a group, it is better to remove these references entirely. As an example, ‘Your company lost my shipment and now I’ve lost a customer.’ would become ‘In researching the lost shipment from company ABC intended for recipient XYZ, it has been discovered that the delivery was made to 124 Main St instead of the intended 123 Main St. Our company is requesting that an inquiry is initiated by your delivery service to retrieve the package. In addition we request that your company provide expedited delivery of a replacement package to the correct address at no additional delivery cost to our company ABC.’
You’ve told them calmly of your issue and provided them with information for your preferred solution. Now you can work together for better success, you hopefully won’t have to go out and find a new vendor and you can focus your attention on retaining your customer.
© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations