Beware of These 5 Communication Myths

 

Myth #1: Time Heals All Wounds

The truth is, that time usually deepens wounds. If time really healed all wounds, people would not blame their behavior on their childhood and past events as they often do. In fact, time can deceive us into thinking that problems with others have been resolved, but all it takes is to see them again or something to remind us of those previous unresolved issues and we will become upset all over again. In essence, our unresolved past is lying around waiting to strike us in the present.

What to do? Do not rationalize by thinking, “Well, they are not saying or bringing it up, so I will just let it go.” Just because they are not bringing it up does not mean that they have let it go. They may feel awkward or embarrassed or they may not know how to bring it up so they have decided to bury it. The key is to proactively bring up issues and resolve them.

Myth #2: Don’t Rock the Boat

The truth is, if you don’t rock the boat, the boat will probably sink. Faced with an issue or problem that is bothering us, many people rationalize, “I am not going to say anything. It is not that big of a deal. I don’t want to rock the boat.” The problem with this way of thinking is if we don’t say anything, the issue is unlikely to be resolved. Then what was once a small issue may fester and grow into a big problem.

What to do? As stated above, proactively bring up issues as they happen.

Myth #3: Be Diplomatic

The truth is, if we are too diplomatic, the point we are trying to make will not get across and nothing will get resolved. Have you ever had someone claim that they told you something, but you really don’t remember or didn’t understand the message they were trying to send? This happened because the message being conveyed to you was so subtle that you missed the point.

What to do? When we have to communicate an issue, bringing it up in a respectful way is important, but make sure the issue and what you want done is clear and direct.

Myth #4: Sandwich What You Really Want to Say Between Two Compliments

The truth is, the “sandwich method” is so obvious that people immediately identify the strategy and feel manipulated. The sandwich method is when you place what you really want to say between two positive compliments. “I appreciate how hard you work, but blah, blah, blah… and thank you for working with me on this.” This communication trick can permanently damage relationships.

What to do? Tell people the truth. People are smart, but we are lousy actors, so be honest and clear. If you have issues, talk about them and get right to the point. When you have something nice to say, bring it up in a conversation unrelated to the problem so you can get the most benefit out of the conversation.

Myth #5: More Communication Leads to Resolution

The truth is, simply having more communication can lead to wasting time and possibly more misunderstandings. Sometimes it is believed that the more people talk about something, that easier the message will emerge from the sheer volume of information. But how often have you been in a meeting where people “talked about things” and nothing got resolved.

Consider this: if the solution were simply to increase communication, wouldn’t you expect that the increase in e-mail, cell phone use, and video conferencing would have significantly reduced communication problems? In spite of all of these extra tools now accessible to us, it seems that there are more misunderstandings, mistakes, and conflicts than ever before. And people still complain that they don’t receive the feedback they need to do their jobs properly.

In fact, communication technologies can also help people spread misinformation with blazing speed, sometimes leading to devastating results. Communication technology is not inherently bad. However, the way people use it is often ineffective. Increasing the amount of communication through multiple channels is not the answer.

What to do? Instead of just increasing the amount of communication, make sure that people know how to effectively use the different methods to communicate. These methods can make the critical difference in successfully resolving issues as they arise.

Take Action

Pass this tip on to people you care about; your co-workers, your boss, your employees, your family and friends. Use it as a basis to talk to the people around your office, in your organization, and your personal life. Have an upfront conversation about the “myths of communication” and assess what everyone is willing to do differently. This way everyone will benefit from the knowledge and wisdom we all have to contribute.


Create Moments of Honesty Every Day

Last week I was invited to appear on Good Day DC to celebrate National Honesty Day. We had a great conversation about honesty and the impact it has on both personal and professional relationships.

Here are just a few of the things that we talked about during the interview:

  • Why the unsaid is often more harmful than the things that are being said
  • The reason the “sandwich method”, often used to deliver criticism, is manipulative and what to do instead
  • Why appreciation is something we need to practice on a much more regular basis

Although National Honesty Day is now behind us, we want to encourage you to create moments of honesty every day. Getting the unsaid said, appreciating each other more and being honest in our communication will lead to more successful relationships and business interactions.

Watch the interview and, once you’ve had a chance to tune in, Tweet your thoughts to me at @Steven_Gaffney with the hashtag #HonestyEveryDay.


The Law of Reflection

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Abide by the Law of Reflection

The Law of Reflection states that what we give out is what we tend to get back. You may also know this law as the Golden Rule, or by the phrases “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or “What goes around comes around.” 

We have all heard these phrases in various forms and often recite them ourselves, but what strikes me is how easy it is to forget the powerful role this philosophy plays in honest communication.

Just think about it. How often have you experienced someone who does not listen to you or is not fully honest with you? In the spirit of National Honesty Day, be truly honest with yourself. Have there been times when you did not listen to that person or when you failed to openly share with them? As leaders, parents, colleagues and friends, we must model the behavior we seek.

When people blame us, we tend to blame them; when people accuse us, we tend to accuse them right back; when people withhold information from us, we tend to keep information from them. It also tends to hold true in the positive direction. When people take responsibility for their actions, we tend to take responsibility for ours; when people apologize, we tend to apologize back; when people focus on the solution; we tend to do the same.

Abiding by the Law of Reflection motivates you to be honest with others and compels others to be more honest with you. Be honest in acknowledging your mistakes, communicating your concerns and expressing your appreciation. Doing so will encourage others to do the same. Take that a step further and really listen to people if you want people to listen to you. Listen, no matter who are speaking with.

As National Honesty Day quickly approaches, abiding by the Law of Reflection is one way to increase your level of honesty.


Cure Your Email Headaches!

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Do not hide behind your keyboard to avoid uncomfortable or difficult conversations.

In the spirit of National Honesty Day, let’s be honest. We have all decided to send an email to deal with an uncomfortable or upsetting issue instead of having a direct conversation. Do emails really help resolve issues or confusion more quickly and effectively?

Research shows that 90% of a message’s meaning is conveyed by tone, body language, context and source; not just words. Therefore with email, tensions rise and problems escalate when people hide behind their keyboards to avoid the discomfort of talking directly about issues. This leads to distorted one-way conversations that lack the tone, context and body language that clarify messages in two-way dialogue. Thus, email wars erupt, clutter mailboxes, eat up time and thwart collaboration, morale and productivity.

Email can be a terrific, quick and efficient form of communication, or it can be horrific. It all depends on how it is used. Below are a few tips for how to effectively use email:

Use email for its four main purposes: to communicate information, to receive information, as a form of documentation, and for friendly correspondence.

For example, use email to keep everyone informed of a project’s status, to verify what was discussed in a face-to-face or phone conversation, to ask a quick question, to say hello, and to compliment.

Do not use email to resolve emotional upsets.

In other words, if you are upset with someone or someone is upset with you, do not use email. Call the person or go talk to the person face to face. Given the inherent difficulties with communication via email, it is not a good way to communicate emotions or resolve difficulties.

State the purpose of your email immediately.

By stating the purpose in the subject heading or in the first sentence of your text, you minimize the possibility that the recipient will misinterpret your message or delete it before it is read.

Write email as you would a newspaper article.

The first paragraph should contain the most pertinent information, with details following in subsequent paragraphs. People are busy and need the highlights. They may never finish the email and may miss important information if it is buried in the body of the text. If appropriate, have a quick summary sentence at the end.

If an email volleys more than twice, pick up the phone.

If you email back and forth with someone more than two times about the same issue, it is time to pick up the phone and get clarification. When emails volley back and forth about the same issue, it is often a sign that something else is going on (someone is really upset, doesn’t understand, is being resistant, and so on).

If you don’t want an email published in a newspaper, don’t send it.

You never know what will happen with your email or to whom it will be forwarded once you press send.

This National Honesty Day, choose to use email for the right purposes. If you are upset, confused or have a serious issue to resolve, pick up the phone or walk down the hall and have an honest two-way conversation. Do not use each stroke of the keyboard to brush issues under the rug. Remember, email can be either a terrific or horrific tool. It all depends on how it is used. Be careful!

Keep an eye out for tomorrow’s honest communication tip in honor of National Honesty Day (April 30)!

Did this tip help you? We welcome your feedback at info@stevengaffney.com or 703-241-7796.


How to Deliver Bad News

Steven - 2015 profileBad news about us is better coming from our own mouths than from someone else’s.

As National Honesty Day approaches and you consider your own level of honesty, you might find yourself in the “Truth vs. Lies” trap. This trap leads many to believe that if they simply refrain from lying, they are honest. That’s a great start, but as I’ve said before, honesty goes beyond not telling lies. It also requires us to share ALL details (the good and the bad) and to tackle difficult conversations head-on. These aspects of honesty are particularly challenging when it comes to delivering bad news about ourselves.  

Sharing bad news is part of everyday life. The key is to proactively share such information before the other party discovers it. In the end, people usually find out the truth. Therefore, honest communication is critical to establishing credibility and trust with our customers, potential clients, co-workers and staff, as well as our family and friends. You can tell how open and trustworthy a relationship is by how willing someone is to share things that are difficult but important to hear.

When it’s time to share bad news and difficult information, keep in mind these four techniques for effectively delivering the message:

Deliver it immediately.

Bad news about us is better coming from our own mouths than from someone else’s. If someone else discovers our bad news before we divulge it, it undermines their trust in us, and they may begin to wonder what else we are hiding.

Take 100 percent responsibility for your actions.

Remember, no one makes us do anything. We choose our actions for a variety of reasons. Great leaders and coaches take responsibility for their team’s actions as well as their own. Taking responsibility helps others receive any news favorably. Consider Ronald Reagan. He began slipping in the polls during the Iran-Contra affair until he took full responsibility. After taking responsibility, his popularity rose again.

Get ahead of the curve on bad information.

If the future looks bleak or more bad information is possible, find out as much as you can and share it as quickly as possible before someone else discovers it. Years ago, tainted Tylenol killed people, yet the company survived the crisis in part because company officials quickly and openly shared what they knew with the public.

Take immediate and widespread action to correct the situation.

People feel more secure when they hear and witness someone doing something about the situation. Unfortunately, organizations and individuals often take a reactive wait-and-see approach – only to have the situation worsen. How we respond to mistakes defines us. Consider the Tylenol example again. The company immediately pulled all the potentially deadly products off store shelves. They did not wait to be forced to take action; they proactively told the public what their company was doing to correct the situation and prevent further accidents.

No one likes to share bad information, but doing so honestly is imperative to maintaining the bond of trust. Trust is the foundation of all relationships, and honest communication is the key to developing and building the relationships we desire.

Keep an eye out for tomorrow’s honest communication tip in honor of National Honesty Day (April 30)!

Did this tip help you? We welcome your feedback at info@stevengaffney.com or 703-241-7796.


The Truth about Assumptions

We all know the infamous saying about assumptions, and it has given assumptions a bad reputation. In fact, I have discovered that some of the best leaders have assumptions that empower them in their work and in their lives. Let’s take a look at a few of those empowering assumptions.

Assumption 1: There’s More to the Story

Always assume that whatever someone tells you is not the full story. This is not about being suspicious, it’s about uncovering the truth. Great journalism is a good example of this. When journalists assume there is more to the story, they ask probing questions to find out what is really going on.

This assumption is a great tool in the workplace because problem solving is critical. By assuming that there is a bigger story behind the story, you can remember to ask a lot of questions to get to the heart of the matter. Approach employees and coworkers like a journalist simply looking for the real story. Journalists are out to get the truth, not to make accusations. Great leaders get to the truth.

This approach can also help to solve genuine conflict. Think about a time you tried to solve a problem with your partner or a friend. When people are upset, they may use inappropriate language or the wrong tone, and then you are likely to react by shutting down the conversation. This is how and why we remain mired in the same problems. An effective way to stop this is to think to yourself, “There is probably more to this story. I’m going to let this pass and then get to the real issue.” When you can sidestep the reaction, you don’t get hooked and you’re empowered to continue the conversation later and resolve the conflict.

Assumption 2: Good Intentions

I’ve never heard anyone say, “Listen. Don’t tell anybody, but I’m trying to really screw things up here.” In reality, most everyone is trying to do the best they can with what they have. By assuming that everyone has good intentions, you will use a better tone in conversations with them — and tone has five times the impact that our actual words do.

This assumption encourages people to open up in conversation, whereas assuming ill intent shuts down conversation. Making this assumption doesn’t mean ignoring problems. Not at all. It simply specifies that you will approach people about problems by assuming they have good intentions. This helps to build relationships and resolve issues.

Think about a classic interaction that occurs in homes on a daily basis. Your kids are down in the basement and you assume they’re up to no good. So you say, “What are you doing down there?” and your tone is accusatory because you think they’re doing something wrong. It’s easy to see how assumptions can tear at the fabric of our relationships.

In the workplace, great leaders assume that employees want to do their best. In making that assumption, great leaders actually help their employees to do just that. And when something does go wrong, employees have greater freedom to communicate openly and honestly about the real problems because the leaders assume good intent. Open, honest communication means problems get solved faster.

Assumption 3: You Could Be Wrong

Have you ever met somebody who assumes that they are always right? These are self-righteous people, and they have the power to shut down teamwork, a whole organization, and a home. They’re difficult to deal with because they’re basically saying, “I have nothing to learn,” and they don’t ask questions.

But if you make the empowering assumption that you may be wrong, then you are going to probe and ask questions—because you don’t think you already know all the answers. Of course, asking questions is not enough because that can be done disingenuously; you have to listen to the answers and believe you really might learn something.

I call believing we may be wrong the humble assumption. This is where we say to ourselves, “Life has so much to offer and people are really wonderful and I’m going to learn from them.” This builds relationships and teamwork, thereby enabling innovation and problem solving.

When you are entrenched in familiar problems and you don’t know why, check your assumptions. They operate under the radar and undermine us without our knowledge. Great leaders empower themselves with beneficial assumptions to the benefits of their employees and their organization’s innovation, growth, and profit.


Getting the Unsaid Said

One of the most important things for us to recognize is that one of the main problems in communication is not what people are saying but rather what they aren’t saying.

How often have you thought to yourself, “If they had just told me, I could have made a better decision!” or “Had they told me what was wrong, I could have fixed it.” What about those moments when you are sitting in a meeting and you think to yourself, “Should I bring up this topic for discussion… or not?”

This video explores the ways in which we stay silent and how you can get the unsaid said.

Once you’ve had a chance to watch the video, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to visit our Facebook page and join in on the conversation around speaking your truth.


Can Honesty Get You in Trouble?

We’ve all been in situations where we’ve said something to somebody and they didn’t react well. When we base our own actions on other people’s reactions, it can keep us afraid and less direct than we may need to be.

If you struggle with having direct and honest conversations, today’s video will help. It often only takes just one small tweak to really see an improvement in your communication.

Once you’ve had a chance to watch the video, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to visit our Facebook page and join in on the conversation around honest communication.


Creating Honest Communication and Reducing Fear

I have found that it is very important to arm employees with the skills needed to have honest conversations – especially in situations that might be a bit fear-inducing.

In this video, I will share the reason why promoting honest communication is so incredibly valuable for you and your organization.

By implementing this advice, you will begin to see a shift. Instead of relying on guidance from managers, your employees will become much more empowered to handle difficult situations themselves.

Once you’ve had a chance to watch the video, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to visit our Facebook page and join in on the conversation around honest communication.


Want Higher Performing Employees? You Need to Ask These Three Critical Questions

steven-gaffney-newsletterIn working relationships, whether as an employee or a consultant, creating an opportunity for success is key.

Everyone wants their employees to succeed and reach critical objectives but often a crucial step in the feedback process is missed. This misstep can sometimes leave the employee unsure about how to adjust their behavior and the employer unable to effectively measure said change.

In this audio interview, with Kelly Riggs of The Business LockerRoom, Steven shares the three critical questions that must be asked to get honest, practical, measurable advice.

This content is based on his newest book, “Be A Change Champion. Mastering Momentum: 10 Factor’s for Sustaining the Boom and Avoiding the Bust of Change.” It is the only book out there dedicated to sustaining the momentum, motivation, and morale of change- big and small.

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