Discover how to communicate clearly and build lasting relationships.

In a recent coaching session a client shared a secret:  “I realized that the reason I haven’t been very productive since my move is that I don’t have anyone I can really talk to,” she said.  “I have work friends and attend networking events, but I don’t feel a deep connection to anyone.”

All the Lonely People

Loneliness is officially a public health crisis.  According to a 2018 survey, 22% of adults in the US and 23% in the UK say they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, feel left out or isolated.  The number of single-occupant households is growing in Denmark, Germany and Canada.  Britain was the first nation in history to appoint a minister for loneliness.

As technology continues to make it easier to do things without interacting with each other, why should we make the effort?  Humans have survived because our brains are wired for connection.  There are serious physical and emotional consequences to spending too much time in isolation.

Less Judgement, More Listening

What should we do?  As Amy Banks points out in Four Ways to Click: Rewire Your Brain for Stronger, More Rewarding Relationship, “when you’re judging, you’re not listening… if you’re not judging, you can listen more and feel calmer,” which makes interacting with others much easier.  The author of Cracking the Code of Sustained Collaboration in Harvard Business Review recommends teaching people to listen so that judgment can give way to curiosity and people can value others’ perspectives as much as their own.  Brené Brown challenges us to “listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.”

Listening is the secret to the deep connection that creates nourishing relationships.  How can you claim this for yourself or offer it to someone else today?

My client kept saying, “Once I know whether I’m going to get this promotion, I will …”  She put her life on hold without realizing that waiting doesn’t change what’s happening now.

What Are You Missing?

Although we don’t like to admit it, fear is usually the reason we keep looking to the future for certainty.  We may feel safer avoiding a tough conversation or the risk of making the wrong decision but what opportunities might be missed if we wait?

  • Making a relationship better
  • Broadening or deepening our skills
  • Exploring a new opportunity

Get Out of Your Holding Pattern

I invite you to get out of your holding pattern by:

  1. Identifying what is keeping you there
  2. Envisioning what you want instead
  3. Taking the first step toward that vision right now…
Want to be a Better Negotiator?

Unless you are a professional negotiator you may not enjoy this aspect of doing business.  Many of us avoid negotiating because we don’t like confrontation, we are uncomfortable advocating for ourselves and/or we don’t want to lose.

Anger is Like a Bomb

Whether we are negotiating with a business partner or a family member, emotions can get the best of us.  The author of this Harvard Business Review article Emotion & the Art of Negotiation says, “Bringing anger to a negotiation is like throwing a bomb into the process.”

Do This Instead

One way to reduce negative emotions even in the most contentious negotiation is an exercise called “Just Like Me,” which asks us to consider:

  • This person has beliefs, perspectives and opinions, just like me.
  • This person has hopes, anxieties and vulnerabilities, just like me.
  • This person has friends, family and perhaps children who love them, just like me.
  • This person wants to feel respected, appreciated and competent, just like me.
  • This person wishes for peace, joy and happiness, just like me.
  • Because this person is a human being, just like me.

I invite you to try making these statements out loud.  Then notice how you feel about the person on the other side of the negotiating table and envision how the outcome might change.

“You in the red shirt call 911!”  The instructor in my CPR training class was demonstrating the importance of making a very clear and specific request.  She explained that if you say, “Someone call 911” it’s likely that no one will call because they all assume someone else will do it.

Most of us aren’t dealing with emergency situations every day so you might be wondering why I’m writing about this.  Almost all of my clients need help communicating effectively and this advice translates to non-emergency situations as well.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • “Jenny I need you to follow up with accounting on this past due issue by Friday at noon” is more effective than “Somebody needs to take care of this past due issue ASAP.”
  • “Would you play back what I said so I can be sure we’re on the same page?”

Effective communication is making your request clear and specific so you can get what you need.  How can you apply this today?

On the Harvard Business Review website there are more than 10,000 articles, books, webinars and videos that mention communication skills.  Would you agree that effective communication is essential to success in business?

For my clients who struggle with adjusting style to their audience in formal presentations or everyday interactions, I recommend the following methodology:

  1. Identify your goal
  • So you can be intentional about your approach
  1. Know your audience
  • What are their expectations and personality types?
  1. Get feedback in advance
  • For formal presentations and discussions that might be difficult
  • Build consensus with key stakeholders who will support your position
  1. Follow up
  • Ensure your message was heard
  • Learn how you can improve

The more you practice, the more effectively you will be able to communicate in any situation.  As they say in the theatre business, “Break a leg!”

During his three terms as the mayor of New York Ed Koch asked everyone he met, “How am I doing?”  He didn’t want to wait for an election to find out.  How did you do last year?

Did You Ask?

The more senior your role, the less likely you are to have a formal discussion about how you’re doing.  Many companies have moved away from formal evaluations completely.  Whether you get formal feedback or not, you may be reluctant to ask your boss for informal feedback because:

  • You don’t want to be micromanaged
  • No news is good news
  • It’s the boss’s job to initiate these conversations
  • You might have to make some changes

Find an Approach That Works

If it is important to you to know what you’re doing well and how you could improve, and you work for someone who isn’t good at giving feedback, you owe it to your boss and yourself to find an approach that works well for both of you.  Real time feedback is best but not everyone is comfortable with that.  Ask your boss what she or he prefers.  You might get the best feedback during conversations over coffee.  If more structure appeals to you, you could suggest regularly scheduled discussions focused on one or two key areas.

If you don’t ask, then how will you know how you’re doing?