Posts tagged ‘communication’

February 25, 2012

You Have A Voice!

Yesterday, my wife and I were discussing the prospect of looking at ourselves on video. She stated that she finds it interesting to watch herself on video. I replied that it kind of creeps me out when I watch myself on video. My wife replied, that our reaction to our videos may be reflective on how we viewed ourselves as speakers. My wife comes from the perspective that feels that typically what she has to say is interesting and important. I appear to come from the perspective of doubt that what I have to say may be interesting to others. Therefore, my wife is a more active and fluent speaker than myself for most topics. However, when I am fully confident of the topic of which I am speaking, I feel that I do a great job at expressing myself.

I realized from this conversation that I still need to acknowledge and overcome my unconscious programming. I know that at a conscious level that I am smart, articulate and respected in my feel. To overcome my subconscious thoughts, I need to re-write my story. I have interesting things to say! I am worthy of being heard!

In the movie “The King’s Speech”, there is a great scene where the King George VI is doubting the credentials of Lionel Logue, his speech therapist. In the movie to this point, King George VI was also greatly doubting himself on his ability to be King since public speaking was such a great challenge for him. On the eve of the King’s coronation, Lionel Logue sat on the thrown while King George was lost in doubt. When the King saw Lionel on the thrown, he told him to get out. Lionel refused and indicated that the King was not a King yet and why should Lionel listen to this duke who did not feel he was worthy of being a King? The King gathered confidence and strength with his articulation and stated clearly “because I have a voice!”

Each of us has a voice. Each of us can be prone to doubt. We are all best served when we do not let irrational fears or doubts hinder our voice.

We all have important things to say!

We are all worthy of being heard!

We may not all be Kings in the official sense, but we ALL have a VOICE!

We are all “Kings” of our own Kingdoms!

Thanks to all who have read and commented!

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February 22, 2012

10 Elephants

Yesterday, we discussed the benefits of scripting out a challenging conversation before it occurs. Today, we will discuss the importance of the conversational pause.

Almost everyone that you talk to has a different response time. We typically take it for granted the person that we are talking to has the same verbal response time that we do. In most situations, there is a natural conversational rhythm and ideas are easily exchanged with our conversational partner. If we engage in challenging conversations, conversations that require intense problem solving or if we are communicating with someone that has difficulty with receptive language, our conversational partner may need an increased verbal response time. The Hannen program for facilitating language for preschoolers encourages parents to allow “10 elephants” or 10 seconds for verbal response time. Not everyone needs a full “10 elephants”. The average response time is actually 7 to 10 seconds.  Once we understand that others may need up to 10 seconds to respond to a challenging question or conversation, we will start allowing enough space for others to respond. After we have given someone sufficient time to respond, it would then be appropriate to re-state the question or problem in a different way.

I will use myself as an example. When my wife and I are engaged in our typical conversations about our day, neither of us are conscious of any conversational pauses. However, when we start discussing issues that require problem solving, my wife has noted that I need up to “7 elephants” to respond. I am thankful for this conversational space. During this pause, I am able to use all of my working memory to work on the problem. Often, when I am interrupted during this time of pondering, my thought process will be derailed and I may need to start my thinking over. I am fortunate that the majority of the people that I interact with understand my conversational style.

My wife offered her conversational experience as another example (yes she reads this blog and she has given me her permission to discuss her conversational preferences). My wife feels that she often gives other people only “3 elephants” to respond. When she does not receive a quick response (3 elephants or less) she may feel that people are not listening to her. My wife is aware that she will provide more response time to children than she would for adults. When my wife is in a period of increased stress and increased responsibility, she realizes that she has fewer elephants for everyone.

Since we cannot control the responses of our conversational partners, it is best to reflect on our own conversational processing needs. If you need a full 7 to 10 seconds to respond, it would be beneficial to communicate this with your conversational partner. For example, to indicate that you are still participating in the conversation while processing your response, you could simply state “let me think about that” or offer a pre-determine gesture such as holding one finger up or nodding. If you know that you have a very quick response time, one strategy would be to simply count elephants when you are experiencing an uncomfortable pause.

When listening to jazz, blues or classical music, the spaces between the notes are just as important as the notes themselves. When having a sophisticated conversation, the space between ideas can almost be as important to the flow of the conversation.

February 21, 2012

Scripting for Emotional Success

 Recently, a friend of mine informed me of a strategy that he used to handle a challenging conversation with his wife. This strategy allowed him to state his concerns without being interrupted. He succinctly summarized the main issues that he wanted to be discussed, that in the past were met with a defensive response. In the end, both parties felt heard and the challenging conversation lasted less than 15 minutes. Both parties were able to express their feelings and they experienced a sense of closure.

 At first, I was surprised when he informed me that he sent his wife a text message.

What? Texting!  That is crazy. How can you have an emotional conversation by texting?

In this instance, texting was only the medium of communication. The main strategy was creating a script of the desired conversation. The reason that my friend’s challenging conversation was successful was that he took the time to prepare. He took a long time to craft a message that supported the value of the relationship as well as stating concerns that needed to be addressed.

Before you drop everything and start texting someone you have an issue with, it is vital that you a) consider the other conversational partner’s communicative preferences and b) spend adequate time preparing what you want to communicate while considering the emotional needs of the recipient.

Writing your script.

The most important step in creating your message is writing and revising your ideas so the other person will consider your ideas without feeling attacked, insulted or put down. For your first draft, it is important for you to get all your issues on the page without a filter. DO NOT send the first draft since it will most likely include accusatory statements about the person you are sending it to. For example the possible first draft statement “I am sick and tired of you being inconsiderate and rude when you leave the kitchen a mess”, would most likely be considered an attack and the recipient of this message will likely move into a defense posture.

One important step in framing your comments to your conversational partner is to separate facts from emotion. For example, for the above it may be beneficial to state “I have observed that after you use the kitchen, the dishes remain dirty and there is food on the counter until the next meal”.

The next step in framing your thought is to own your feelings about the situation. “I feel frustrated when I want to use the kitchen; and there is someone else’s mess there”.

A very important step in this process is to include positive statements about the person or about the relationship as a part of the script. If you feel that the other person may have great difficulty being receptive to the feedback that you plan on giving them, it would be beneficial to incorporate more positive statements. When writing these positive statements, make sure you do not link the positive with a critique using the word “but”. (“I love you; but it frustrates me when the kitchen is a mess”). When you use “but” in this instance, you negate everything positive that you have said before the word “but”.

Using the examples above, let’s put it all together to see how this could work.

“I am very glad to have you as a roommate. I really appreciate that we get along and that can talk about most things. Lately, I have noticed that after you use the kitchen, the dishes remain dirty; and there is food on the counter until the next meal. I sometimes feel frustrated when I want to use the kitchen; and there is someone else’s mess there. I hope that we can work together to figure this out.

Once you have performed your first edit based on the steps above, re-read while imagining what the other person may think or feel when reading or hearing your words. Although you do not have control of how they will respond, you have a great influence in how that person may perceive your message. If the other person perceives your message as an attack, they will likely react by going into “fight or flight”, which will cause them to either emotionally shut down or verbally attack. If the other person attributes your message as an appeal for collaboration, there is a greater chance that you can resolve the issue. Once you have read, re-read, revised, and finalized your message, it is time to consider how to send it.

Finding the right medium

When considering the medium for your challenging conversation/ message, it is best to consider the other person’s communicative preferences. For example, if someone rarely uses technology, texting a challenging message would not be a wise idea. Also, if you know that the other person has a habit of collecting “the bad things in life”, a letter, e-mail or text may not be a wise option; since this piece of writing may be saved for that person’s later rumination. However, if you have an issue where you have had difficulty fully communicating your point of view, written correspondence may help.

A face-to-face conversation is the most intimate form of communication. A face-to-face interaction requires flexibility and the ability to listen objectively to the other person’s perspective. Scripting prior to a face-to-face interaction could help prepare you for the other person’s possible responses and prepare you on how to best respond to the other person. Prior scripting also helps in including positive statements about the other person as well as detaching your emotions from the position in question.

There are some considerations for a face-to-face interaction. If you are addressing an issue that would be emotionally charged for both parties, the face to face interaction may be more about your in the moment emotional experience versus the issues discussed. Also, if you are interacting with a person that has a tendency to be extremely defensive, your carefully crafted statements may be met with a barrage of defensive responses or anticipatory attacks.

When considering e-mail, text or a formal letter, think about how the other person may react. If you are considering a text, do you have enough lines of text to get the message across? Would the other person feel that a text is impersonal? Does the other person even use texting on their phone? When considering for a personal challenging conversation, NEVER blind carbon copy or copy another person to the e-mail. If the goal is for the other person to collaborate with you, they need to feel like an equal conversational partner. When considering e-mail, make sure that your message would not be considered appropriate if your recipient happened to forward your message to unintended parties. For a formal letter, make sure that the recipient would not consider a letter overly formal based on the situation. For example, a formal letter for a messy kitchen may be a little “over the top”.

There are many great resources for the topic of challenging conversations. I have attended great presentations by Greg Abels, Nick Martin, and Ernie Mendez. The strategies listed above are just a starting point.

The next time you find yourself drifting towards a challenging conversation with your spouse, remember to; state the positives about that person and your relationship, talk about the issues as facts, own your emotional responses and tell them again about the positives about them and your relationship.