Effective interaction includes recognizing and responding to the underlying emotional content of the message and recipient. Take time to address both content and emotion for more effective communication.
Direct, blunt language. In a hurry to get things done. No time for small talk. Do these phrases describe you? Have they appeared in performance review discussions? From my perspective such comments are growing in frequency from all levels of an organization.
We know the reasons; too much to do, too many emails to answer and too many meetings to attend plus everything to manage with home life. We do fill our days at the cost of draining out the enjoyment of the job and life. Seems a high price to pay.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A change in how each interaction is viewed can bring back some of the joy.
We tend to look at every interaction on a transactional basis. We must pass on information or get information. We must convince, influence, or persuade. Looking at everything transactionally is how we deplete ourselves. We do not put our whole self into the interaction.
Communicating is not only a transfer of information or opinion, it is an exchange or acknowledgement of an emotional underpinning. Often, we are so intent on saying what we need to say so we can move on to the next item on our agenda we do not take the time to see a) if the person is ready to receive what you have to say or b) they have processed it and know what to do with what you said.
What this means is we need to bring our whole self in to each encounter. We need to be not just brain but brain and heart.
What does this look like?
HP comes into the office early to get a jump on a project. Fully engrossed HP realizes he needs some information from PD. HP noticed PD has walked by his desk on his way in. HP jumps up to follow PD and before PD can put down his messenger bag HP fires his questions rapidly at PD. PD is caught off guard. He has had other matters on his mind and the abrupt change in subject has him grasping for thoughts in a less than coherent way. HP is not satisfied with the answers and makes sure PD is aware of his dissatisfaction. Total time 10 minutes.
HP comes into the office early to get a jump on a project. Fully engrossed HP realizes he needs some information from PD. HP notices PD has walked by his desk on his way in. HP jots down the questions he has for PD. He gives PD a few minutes to get settled in. While he waits, HP takes a mental step back and reviews the project from the 10,000-foot level to get perspective and sees some new options. HP then walks over to speak to PD. HP says good morning and makes small talk about PD’s game with the office bowling team. HP mentions he was going over few items on Project X and has a few questions. “Is this a good time to talk?” asks HP. PD pauses, and responds, “I have 10 minutes now or more after 10:30.” HP responds, “10 minutes should do it.” Then he asks his questions. Total time 12 minutes.
Brain only versus Brain and Heart. Two minutes. Not a lot of time over the course of the day. A two-minute investment of HP’s whole self in an interaction yielded a return of high engagement, autonomy, respect, correct information and high productivity.
Let’s break down what happened before and in those two minutes of the second scenario.
Before the Interaction
- HP has time to consider what questions to ask.
- HP took a few moments to think strategically.
- PD has time to get into work mode.
Result: Heart helped Brain.
During the interaction
- HP shows interest in PD as a person.
- HP does a check in to see if PD is available not only in terms of schedule, but if he is mentally ready to tackle the topic.
- PD has control over timing of the conversation indicating readiness to answer the questions.
- HP and PD has discussion. HP gets what he needs, the information. PD gets what he needs, acknowledgement and respect.
Result: Heart helped Brain.
Bringing your whole self and meeting the other person as a whole person, recognizing their emotional state ensures your communication efforts yield the result you want. It only takes a small investment of your time. Put your whole self in.
“Barking at people earns their respect about as effectively as staring into the sun improves your vision.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons