Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Stop and T. H. I. N. K. before you communicate.

Post 502 - "There are no misunderstandings; there are only failures to communicate,” according to a Senegalese Proverb.

A friend told me recently about instructions he gave his assistant. He had a very nice training certificate that he wanted to send to someone who lived out of town. So my friend asked his assistant to “fold it as little as possible.” He was surprised to find out later that the certificate arrived safely as a two-inch square of tightly folded paper. The certificate was folded “as little as possible.” Who was at fault here?

To communicate effectively, it’s important to realize that we’re all different in the way we see and interpret the world, and then to use this understanding as a guide when we communicate with others. So the next time you plan to communicate something important, follow the T.H.I.N.K. guideline and ask yourself these questions before you start:

T: Is it True?

H: Is it Helpful?

I: Is it Inspiring?

N: Is it Necessary?

K: Is it Kind and Respectful?

It's easy to think that workplace norms are explicit and easy to obey - be at your desk by nine, don't ask superiors personal questions, and don't dress too casually, for example. Managing someone who doesn't follow these norms can be frustrating, especially if you think their lack of understanding reflects poorly on your own management. Before you tear out your hair wondering why some Gen X employees just don't seem to get the dress code thing, try using the following tips:

- Stay open. Some of the rules that we think are gospel may actually just be our own preferences.

- Spell out what's essential to the business. It's unlikely that dressing in a too-casual way will derail the company’s success. If the employee needs to be presentable when making client calls, that's one thing. But be clear about what’s truly important to the firm’s performance.

- Communicate expectations clearly. Don't expect everyone to pick up on informal cues. Be explicit with someone who doesn't appear to be getting the message about what rules need to be followed and why.

- Make sure that all of you is sending the same message as your words. Body language, facial expression, posture, movement, and tone of voice all help to emphasize the truth, sincerity, and reliability of your communication. Consistency in the total message ensures effective communication.

“I like what happens as a result of communication problems because I don’t think people communicate truly in any way. Communication is always imperfect. Language is an imperfect instrument - so is sex, so is shouting at each other - and although you get the occasional moments when you feel truly connected, they’re pretty hard to keep hold of.” – Colin Firth

No comments: