More than 5 years ago I have had 2 colleagues that worked very well together. They were together in tuff projects, they were together in personal life. Both looked like best friends. When one of them was in a hard to deal situation the other one joined to help him overcome it, no matter what it was – presentation, a challenge in personal life or even convincing the senior leadership team to give them more money to finish a project. They were always together, giving their best and showing others what real friendship looks like. Till one day- when one of them found that the other person was invited to speak on important project and didn’t invite him to join the meeting. This person’s reaction was hard- he texted the first guy writing a short message: “I can’t believe that you have hidden the information about this meeting from me”. The other guy was in the middle of a meeting. When seeing this message he became distracted and almost lost his mojo to finish the meeting successfully. But the text message made him angry and produced a reaction of accusing the first guy that he hadn’t helped him in a hard meeting with the senior leadership team several weeks ago and that costed him to lose support for an important activity for his team.
These two short sentences upset their relationship that was seen as good for many years. It took them almost 2 months to get together again, but something didn’t look like before now. They were more collegial, but friends and that was seen from everyone who knew both guys’ history.
This situation made me think about what is really important when you structure your situation. I have learned so many lessons from it. The three most important from them were:
Do not communicate when you are angry and feel negative
Never bring distractors in a meeting
When communicating be sure that what you will write is not emotionally neutral
We need to understand that most of our communication has become transactional – a word shared here, a sentence shred there. But that is wrong because communication must not be transactional, at its essence communication must be relational. Communication is about connecting with others. No matter how simple this looks, we need to remember that this is that building connecting is one of the most challenging elements of successful communication. Challenging situations must not distract or depress people. They come to help them build the best straightforward framework for learning to communicate powerfully in any situation.
Organizations are complex, people make mistakes and often what looks like a rude or political decision can be just an oversight. When entering a difficult situation it helps to ask instead of being demanding and to try staying curious and open, instead to shut down the communication and isolate yourself. Before starting a communication we need to ask ourselves several important questions:
What outcome do I want?
In the most common situation we act more reactional than connecting with others. Our reactions often lead us haphazard outcomes. To change that we need to start by thinking about an outcome e are aiming for and the response we will expect to achieve that outcome. In our guys’ situation what broke down was that they have broken trust and support and together with that they have also broken their communication strong connecting element transforming it to poison outcome and behavior and disconnection.
What should I communicate to achieve that outcome?
After we have identified the outcome we pursue it will be much easier to structure our communication. If we want to be more close to someone, no matter the situation what we express must be in line showing our feelings about the situation, instead accusing others. Accusing others will lead to defensive behavior.
As an example from the story above, instead of accusing each other for forgetting we can transform our communication like instead saying “I’m so angry because you didn’t’ support me on the meeting ” we can say “I felt abounded and left by my own during this meeting and that made me feel betrayed”. Small differences in the sentences can create miracles with your connection to the other side. This will show the other side our level of vulnerability at a particular moment and will move them away from the position of feeling like someone who winning at any price.
How must I communicate to achieve that outcome?
The basic goal here for everyone is to be heard. Instead of focusing on how to make our point of view more clear we need to understand how to predispose the other person to listen. To achieve that we need to show curiosity – ask questions, recap what we heard, etc. Before sharing our perspective we need to have confirmation from the others that we really understand their state. When doing that we win other side trust and attention to hear what we have to say.
When should I communicate to achieve the outcome?
For many of us, communication comes out like a gut reaction. There is a simple rule most of us overlook: “Do not communicate because you feel like you have to do it, communicate when you are most likely to be heard from the others”. That happened in the example I shared in the beginning – both friends communicated when they both were affected and not ready to listen, instead of waiting to calm down and peek better moment where they were more likely to hear each other.
Today the main problem with communication is that it is easy to be done. Everyone can type a short message and just click the button “send”. But what most of us miss is that communication is somehow a small complex universe that can easily explode. That explosion can be avoided by stopping for a moment and ask ourselves if the purpose time and impact of the communication and understand how the wrong moment used can ruin something built for a long time. To