June 8, 2010

Your Words Are Powerful

Where do our words come from? Several years ago, ASTD reported that the number one course content sought by CEOs in America is Communication Skills. Their common request is, "Help my workforce communicate more effectively!".

What can go wrong when we communicate? Why are dollars spent on improving communication skills on the job? Here is why we need communication skills training:
- We speak without thinking how our message will be received.
- We fail to empathically listen to the other person's issue or dilemma.
- We speak to them from our own belief system and our own values.
- We, naively, believe everyone sees things as we see them.
- We are careless (or stupid) in the words we select to convey our message.
- We do not think the tone of our voice matters. Ha! It is huge!

And what are the results we get as careless communicators? We are ineffective, at best. We are damaging, at worst.
- We fail to be helpful when we think we are.
- We drive hard to deliver what we want.
- We present our arrogance for all to see. (It is like being proud of the spinach in your teeth!)
- We cave in. We capitulate. We pout. We become silent. (Highly ineffective communication!)

So, what should be taught in communication skills for building effective relationships? These are the concepts that need to be learned:
  1. Determine clearly what the message is that you wish to send before you speak. Ask yourself, "What is my intent? What do I really, really want to accomplish?"
  2. Be clear and concise as you speak. Use words that convey exactly what you mean. The term for careful word selection is wordsmith! It is true! Triple your current vocabulary! Choose your words.
  3. Speak with empathy. Ask yourself, "What is the other person feeling right now?" You do not have to be mushy at work, but you do have to care about the other.
  4. Quit obsessing with yourself. Craft your message for the other person to receive. Ask yourself, "What do they need to hear?" "Want to hear?" "Must hear?"
  5. Use caution with your body language. Rolling your eyes, a disgusted look, smirking, condensations...all send your message, too!
  6. The tone of your voice reveals your true intent also. Do not break someone's heart because you were too harsh....or because you delivered with a ridiculing tone of voice.
  7. Your heart should be set on win-win. "How can I get what I want and help her get what she wants?" Do not talk it if you can not walk it. Words are cheap.
People get hurt everyday, everywhere - on the job, within families, in neighborhoods and yes, among those who are looking for jobs. Most of it is caused by: ridiculous expectations, thoughtless words, jealousy, or self-absorption (narcissism). I would suggest you consider the following:
- Be considerate of the other person. Walk in his/her shoes! Wear her stress.
- Determine how your communication can build up - not tear down.
- Walk your talk. Enough of the theoretical. Let us see your results. People will cut us a lot of slack when we make mistakes, if they trust us.
- Be creative in fixing things. "I can not do anything about it," is normally a cop-out. We usually can make a difference if we try.
- Seek help to communicate more clearly and concisely. Make an effort.
- Build your vocabulary. Select the right words. No need to be wordy; just be clear.
- Recognize that even hard conversations can be handled in a productive way.

I also recommend reading Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler. There are times when difficult topics must be discussed. How do you do it? Do you say nothing for fear of offending? Do you blurt out the tough words? This book was insightful. It reminded me that we must keep trying to make a positive difference every day. The key is to focus on our intent. Then deliver our message.

So, in summation, words are powerful. Which ones do you choose and how do you deliver them?

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