September is flying by so fast, or shall I say time is flying by so fast. Tomorrow my husband and I are celebrating our 10 year Wedding Anniversary! Over the years I’ve learned, (sometimes the hard way) how to best communicate my point and depending on the subject, I either need to provide a lot of details or bottom line it. You many notice some similarities and differences when speaking with your boss or significant other when talking about money for example or job satisfaction? Try this simple 5 step process and let me know how you make out.
Have you ever been engaged in a conversation for five or ten minutes, and realized that you still had no idea what was going on? Sometimes this is fun, but more often it’s frustrating for all parties involved.
In business and in life, effective communication is key. I believe and have witnessed how communication can be the root of all problems and solutions. We all process things differently. That’s why it’s
effective to plan important conversations, and start them with a thought summary. When you do this, you’ll see greater productivity and less confusion, and you’ll save time and headaches.
So, first things first: What stops us from being effective in conversation?
- We don’t know what we want or need.
- We don’t feel like putting in the energy to figure out what’s really required.
- The person we have to speak with makes us nervous or uncomfortable, or is too busy to give us his or her full attention.
- It’s easier to let someone else solve the problem.
- “They” always say no.
- We want to be liked, so we start off with an overly friendly tone or a funny story that leads the conversation off track.
The result of these factors (and others) is ineffective communication. But if you spend a few minutes planning your conversation—even jotting down notes on a piece of paper—you can reduce the influence of the above factors and therefore make your communication clearer and more effective.
Creating a Thought Summary:
The text below outlines the Thought Summary Process and provides both a personal and a work-related example for each step. The work example is generic. The personal example comes from a situation in my one of my client’s life.
Step 1. Define your ultimate goal for the conversation.
- Work: I want to create an ongoing sales relationship with this client.
- Personal: I am having some renovations done on my house. Her ultimate goal is to have great new space that I love living in.
Step 2. Name one to three specific things that you would like to achieve through this conversation.
- Sales relationship: Understand what the customer wants to get out of this conversation. Understand what’s really on the client’s mind. Understand what the client likes about me and my service.
- Personal: While my home was undergoing renovations, I was pretty frustrated with a contractor. The goals for one of my conversations with him were to let him know exactly how angry I was with him (so much so that it was impacting my ability to speak rationally to him at all); to let him know that I no longer trusted him but wanted to be able to do so again; to let him know that I really did appreciate his efforts and his work; and finally, to hear his side of the story, so we could work things out and accomplish my ultimate goal from Step 1.
Step 3. Figure out the best approach to use for this person.
- Know your audience. We all communicate and process information differently.
- Ask yourself what you know about the person with whom you will be speaking. Are they quiet, shy, straightforward, bossy, or self-important?
- Is your relationship with them important to you, or can you dissolve it if certain issues can’t be rectified? Tailor your approach to their style and watch communications open up. Increasing our communications skills helps in all areas of our lives. Remember that communication involves not only words but also body language.
Based on your understanding of this person and the specifics you want to accomplish, make some notes about what your executive summary will sound like. For instance, for a shy customer, note that you will keep your voice low and body language quiet. For a boisterous person, practice holding your head up and shoulders down and back to be open to their great energy! The same holds true for someone that makes you nervous.
Step 4. Keep it simple! The simplest way to create an Executive Summary is to simply say it as it is, and go from there.
- Begin the conversation by stating the reason you are standing there or calling, then list what you want to accomplish. Once you have done this, wait for a response or ask if this makes sense. If the answer is yes, then begin with the first point. Watch for responses and create a two way dialogue as part of your goal.
- Business relationship: “Hi Mary. It’s great to see you! I’m excited to speak with you about how I can help you. May I ask what you like to accomplish in our meeting today?” (Listen to answer and respond accordingly.) “In addition to what you wanted, I hope that I can get a better understanding of what things are really frustrating you and figure out how I and my company can help you.”
- Personal: “John, we need to clear the air. In the last two weeks a number of things have happened that have been very frustrating to me and at this point, I don’t feel like I can trust you. I want to be able to be a reference for you and I greatly appreciate your level of craftsmanship, but we need to work on our communication. May I tell you what is bugging me so we can discuss things and get back on the same page?”
Step 5: Once the conversation is over, evaluate your success. As with any new skill set, it is good to step back and be honest with yourself about how things transpired. Some questions you might ask yourself include:
- How did it go? Was it better or worse than I expected?
- Did I accomplish my specific objectives?
- Did I move closer to my ultimate goal?
- How, if at all, was the person’s response different from what I had expected or planned for?
- What do I want to change to improve things more the next time?
Above all, keep working at it! Changing how we relate to others is an ongoing process, and it takes time to learn to guide a conversation with a cool head.