Success at work is based not only on your ability to perform, but also on your personality. In fact, in any situation requiring contact with other people – personality is a key fact.
In this age of competition, the ability to cooperate – to work smoothly with others – is in danger of becoming a lost art. But look at the cooperation as a bank account. It is an investment that may not pay immediate dividends. Yet, if deposits are made, the dividends will eventually come both frequent and of high rate. Like a bank account, too, cooperation may demand the sacrifice of immediate conveniences for later reward.
Cooperation is actually an expression of self-interest and unselfishness. It demands that you adjust your immediate pleasure to the best interests of others. The reward of immediate sacrifices is a reputation that will contribute to your success. The team work is based on cooperation. Your ability to be friendly with everyone is a pillar to fit in and get along with your co-workers. Be slow to confide with the others. Be a listener instead of a confider. Keep the confidence of others, and keep your own confidence to yourself.
II. Opening Channels to Communicating
Imagine, you are trapped in a giant bubble. No one can hear you: you can hear no one. Another bubble comes into your vision. Someone is trapped just like you. Can you talk to that other person? Can you become friends? Do you want to establish a contact or just escape?
Numerous studies have shown that babies who are not communicated die within a year.
Communication is, literally, a lifeline.
II. A. Overcome Barriers to Communication
What you say and write must mean the same to your listener as it does to you.
1. Poor Choice of Words
The first barrier can be overcome by choosing your words carefully. Choose words that will not be misunderstood.
Words must have the same feeling tone to the other person as they do to you.
Most of us want to skip the unpleasant things in life, especially if they are threat to the way we like to think of ourselves, our beliefs, and our prejudices. Each of us has had an experience of trying to persuade friends to abandon foolish ideas in favor of our sensible ones. As a result, the friends do not hear our arguments. We have the equal access to this devise. We read what we want to read, we hear what we want to hear.
On one of my husband’s lectures, a woman asked him a question that what she could do if she could not stand to see her face in the mirror; and then she started talking that other people could not accept her either.
The answer was that first she should learn to accept herself. She could not succeed with others if she cannot accept herself. My husband told her that first, she should accept herself no matter how she looks and then she will see that others will accept her too.
Generally speaking, if we see issues with others, we probably have the same weaknesses ourselves. Otherwise, how on earth should we know that someone is not perfect?
a. Accept yourself.
Do not dwell on your faults. Just accept them. This will no be helpful. As long as you defend yourself, make excuses, blame your troubles on others, you will be unable to change.
We become better only if we develop our strong points, and then our weaknesses will not matter.
Do you know what happens when you accept yourself and the way you are? With acceptance comes ability to change and the willingness to change.
b. Accept others
After you learned to accept yourself looking directly at your own faults, without criticism, you probably will be able look at shortcomings of others without trying to change them.
For instance, someone is angry at you. Relax, you are not a target. This situation can be caused by something else and you most likely have nothing to do with this.
When you stop defending yourself, you simply accept people the way they are. Your attitude will tell others that you are still their friend. When they see your accepting attitude, in spite of what they have said or done, they will be able to release the brake that holding them back. They will be able to change.
Remember, people are very sensitive.
Have you ever found that when you are hesitant or you are very emotional inside, people around you also feel tension? When you are calm inside, no matter what happens, it passes and you gain understanding and support from others.
4. Improve your awareness
a. Awareness When you Work in Groups
Awareness is a quality that is especially important when you work in groups. It means you need to be aware of the feelings and personalities of the people you work with.
Keep control of the situation. Ask appropriative questions when needed; keep silence when a person wants to be along. Be are aware of people’s moods are expectations. Speak with people only what is pleases them and avoid topics that might upset them.
b. Awareness of the Flow of Authority
Awareness has another side, as well.
Be aware of the flow of authority in the firm. You will “go through” channels.”
Take all your questions to your immediate manager. He will carry them to the next level of management, and so on. If you should go over the head of your immediate supervisor, you fail to show respect for this position.
Study the organizational chart that lists the officers of the company, heads of departments and so on. This shows how the whole organization works. You will also have a clear picture of your position. This will show you the pass for directions, information and suggestions.
II. B. Art of Persuasion
1. Develop a friendly attitude
A friendly personality is an asset anywhere. If you were born with liking people, you should do well.
Take every opportunity to say “thank you” with a smile. Follow rules of good etiquette, and you will actually feel friendly.
2. Study psychology
Why do people act like people? The more research has done on this subject, the more questions arrive while the soul of every person stays the mystery. There are some psychological principles that are useful in business:
- “Yes” works better then “No”
- Help the Other Person Feel Important
- Ignore the Negative
- Reward the Positive
a. “Yes” works better then “No”
If you want to persuade someone to do something, you will succeed if the discussion is positive and pleasant. That is simply because people are more wiling to listen to what you say.
b. Help the Other Person Feel Important
You never succeed if you build yourself up at the expense of others. If you pride yourself on how well you are doing, others may feel doubtful about their own success. The typical example is when people got married and one of the spouses starts dominating the other. This relationship might eventually break because one person will feel miserable while the other might feel that his partner is not as bright as expected.
If you say your listener, “You may not understand this, but …” you probably will make your listener smaller. Another statement that might put your listener down is if you say “I ought to be perfectly clear”.
To make others feel tall and important is to ask their advice, to get their point of view, and especially to make them a part of decision you make.
Look for opportunities to give recognition, build others up, and make them feel ten feet tall.
Smart sales people play the second fiddle. Their relaxed manner helps customers to make decisions what to buy.
c. Ignore the Negative
When others complain about your actions or job performance, let them talk. Listen attentively. As you listen, ignore the part of conversation that sounds as if it is directed at you personally. Negative statements are best forgotten this way.
d. Reward the Positive
When someone says something positive about you or your company, respond warmly.. Such a response is rewarding to the other person.
Always practice to say something good to the person who compliments you. Always show how the compliment of the other person made you feel. Accepting compliments warmly takes practice, and this is never to later to begin.
II. C. Listening to Comminute
5.Concentrate on the Speaker
In face-to-face listening you find yourself planning your reply instead of concentrating what speaker is saying. This exact same tendency occurs when you listen to a lecture.
In addition, some people even find their minds wandering to personal matters. To avoid such destructions listen to hints as to speaker’s organizational plan.
6. Take Notes in Outline Form
A better plan is to listen a lot and write a little.
Listening is a receiving part of communication. Understanding is a key. Understand the main points what speaker is saying. If you spend all time writing down the words, you probably will miss some points.
The enemy of daydreaming is activity. When you feel your attention is wandering, begin to write industriously.
Look at the speaker, be focused anticipate what he is saying and think of examples.
You surroundings may destruct your attention. It can be anything – noises in the corridor or those coming from the street, latecomers or whispering in audience. Try to turn to deaf ear.
In my experience, the best thing is to sit as closer to a lecturer as possible. This way there is less destruction.
II. D. Creative Listening
Listening now becomes a creative process. There are ways to develop creative listening.
- Watch the person who is talking. There is so much to be learned from the expressions. Put yourself in a speaker’s shoes and try to feel what a speaker feels.
- Organize in your mind what speaker is saying. If you are being told of something what you have to do, write it down. Put the important statements made by a speaker in logical order. (Get back to your notes later if it is impossible during that time)
- Show that you are interested in what is being told you. Such responses as “That is a good suggestion” or “I’ll get right at it” will help the speaker and also will help you.
- In all aspects of conversation, whether of speaking or listening, success depends on co-operation.
III. Conversation as Communication
Communication is best achieved through simple planning and control.
- you must make your message understood
- you must receive/understand the intended message sent to you
- you should exert some control over the flow of the communication
III. 1. Ambiguity Avoidance
As you (concerned with getting things done) your view of words should be pragmatic rather than philosophical. Thus, words mean not what the dictionary says they do but rather what the speaker intended.
Suppose your manager gives to you an instruction which contains an ambiguity which neither of you notice; and results in you producing entirely the wrong product. Who is at fault? The answer must be: who cares? Your time has been wasted, the needed product is delayed (or dead); attributing blame may be a satisfying (or defensive) exercise but it does not address the problem. In everything you say or hear, you must look out for possible misunderstanding and clarify the ambiguity
A second problem is that some people simply make mistakes. Your job is not simply to spot ambiguities but also to counter inconsistencies. Thus you should seek out (perhaps humorous) books on entomology (creepy crawlies) you would deduce that the word should have been etymology. More usual, however, is that in thinking over several alternatives you may suffer a momentary confusion and say one of them while meaning another. There are good scientific reasons (to do with the associative nature of the brain) why this happens, you have to be aware of the potential problem and counter for it.
Finally, of course, you may simply mishear. The omission of a simple word could be devastating. For instance, how long would you last as an explosives engineer if you failed to hear a simple negative in: "whatever happens next you must [not] cut the blue wi..."?
So, the problem is this: the word has multiple meanings, it might not be the one intended, and you may have misheard it in the first place - how do you know what the speaker meant?
Rule 1: PLAY BACK for confirmation
Simple, you ask for confirmation. You say "let me see if I have understood correctly, you are saying that ..." and you rephrase what the speaker said. If this "play back" version is acknowledged as being correct by the original speaker, then you have a greater degree of confidence in you own understanding. For any viewpoint/message/decision, there should be a clear, concise and verified statement of what was said; without this someone will get it wrong.
Rule 2: WRITE BACK for confidence
But do not stop there. If your time and effort depend upon it, you should write it down and send it to everyone involved as a double check. This has several advantages:
- Further clarification - is this what you thought we agreed?
- Consistency check - the act of writing may highlight defects/omissions
- board from which to proceed
- Evidence - hindsight often blurs previous ignorance and people often fail to recall their previous errors
Rule 3: Give Background for context
When speaking yourself, you can often counter for possible problems by adding information, and so providing a broader context in which your words can be understood. Thus, there is less scope for alternative interpretations since fewer are consistent. When others are speaking, you should deliberately ask questions yourself to establish the context in which they are thinking. When others are speaking, you should deliberately ask questions yourself to establish the context in which they are thinking.
III. 2. Practical Points
As with all effective communication, you should decide (in advance) on (1) the purpose of the conversation; and (2) have the plan for achieving it.
There is no alternative to this. Some people are proficient at "thinking on their feet" - but this is generally because they already have clear understanding of the context and their own goals. You have to plan; however, the following are a few techniques to help the conversation along.
The definition of to assert is: "to declare; state clearly". This is your aim. If someone argues against you, even loses their temper, you should be quietly assertive. Much has been written to preach this simple fact and commonly the final message is a three-fold plan of action:
- acknowledge what is being said by showing an understanding of the position, or by simply replaying it (a polite way of saying "I heard you already")
- state your own point of view clearly and concisely with perhaps a little supporting evidence
- state what you want to happen next (move it forward)
Thus we have something like: yes, I see why you need the report by tomorrow; however, I have no time today to prepare the document because I am in a meeting with a customer this afternoon; either I could give you the raw data and you could work on it yourself, or you could make do with the interim report from last week.
You will have to make many personal judgment calls when being assertive. There will certainly be times when a bit of quiet force from you will win the day but there will be times when this will get nowhere, particularly with more senior (and unenlightened) management. In the latter case, you must agree to abide by the decision of the manager but you should make your objection (and reasons) clearly known. For yourself, always be aware that subordinates might be right when they disagree with you and if events prove them so, acknowledge that fact gracefully.
When you have a difficult encounter, be professional; do not lose your self-control because, simply, it is of no use. Some managers believe that it is useful for "discipline" to keep staff a little nervous. Thus, these managers are slightly volatile and will be willing "to let them have it" when the situation demands. If you do this, you must be consistent and fair so that you staff know where they stand. If you deliberately lose your temper for effect, then that is your decision - however, you must never lose control.
Insults are ineffective. If you call people names, then they are unlikely to actually listen to what you have to say; in the short term you may feel some relief at "getting it off your chest", but in the long run you are merely perpetuating the problem since you are not addressing it. This is common sense. There are two implications. Firstly, even under pressure, you have to remember this. Secondly, what you consider fair comment may be insulting to another - and the same problem emerges. Before you say anything, stop, establish what you want as the outcome, plan how to achieve this, and then speak.
Finally, if you are going to criticize or discipline someone, always assume that you have misunderstood the situation and ask questions first which check the facts. This simple courtesy will save you from much embarrassment.
c. Seeking Information
There are two ways of phrasing any question: one way (the closed question) is likely to lead to a simple sound in reply (yes, no, maybe), the second way (the open question) will hand over the speaking role to someone else and force them to say something a little more informative.
Suppose you conduct a review of a recently finished (?) project with Mr. Fast and it goes something like this:
- "Have you finished project X?"
- "If everything written up?"
- "So there is documentation left to do?"
- "Will it take you long?"
- "No, not long"
Before your fingers start twitching to place themselves around Mr. Fast’s neck, consider that your questions are not actually helping the flow of information. The same flow of questions in an open format would be: what is left to do of project X, what about the documentation, when will that be completely finished? Try answering Yes or No to those questions.
Open questions are extremely easy to formulate. You establish in your own mind the topic/aim of the question and then you start the sentence with the words:
WHAT - WHEN - WHICH - WHY - WHERE - HOW
d. Let others speak
Of course, there is more to a conversation (managed or otherwise) than the flow of information. You may also have to win that information by winning the attention and confidence of the other person. There are many forms of flattery - the most effective is to give people your interest. To get Mr. Fast to give you all his knowledge, you must give her all your attention; talk to her about his view on the subject. Ask questions: what do you think about that idea, have you ever met this problem before, how would you tackle this situation?
Silence is effective - and much under-used. People are nervous of silence and try to fill it. You can use this if you are seeking information. You ask the question, you lean back, the person answers, you nod and smile, you keep quiet, and the person continues with more detail simply to fill your silence.
e. To finish
At the end of a conversation, you have to give people a clear understanding of the outcome. For instance, if there has been a decision, restate it clearly (just to be sure) in terms of what should happen and by when; if you have been asking questions, summarize the significant (for you) aspects of what you have learnt.
III. 3. Meeting Management - Preparation
In any organization, "meetings" are a vital part of the organization of work and the flow of information. They act as a mechanism for gathering together resources from many sources and pooling then towards a common objective. They are disliked and mocked because they are usually futile, boring, time-wasting, dull, and inconvenient with nothing for most people to do except doodle while some opinionated has-been extols the virtues of his/her last great (misunderstood) idea.
Your challenge is to break this mould and to make your meetings effective. Meetings should be planned beforehand, monitored during for effectiveness, and reviewed afterwards for improving their administration.
A meeting is the ultimate form of managed conversation; you can organize the information and structure of the meeting to support the effective communication of the participants. Some of the ideas below may seem a little too precise for an easy going, relaxed, semi-informal team atmosphere - but if you administer to gain a reputation for holding decisive, effective meetings, then people will value this efficiency and to prepare professionally so that their contribution will be heard.
a. Should you cancel?
As with all conversations, you must first ask: is it worth your time? If the meeting involves the interchange of views and the communication of the current status of related projects, then you should be generous with your time. But you should always consider canceling a meeting which has little tangible value.
b. Who should attend?
You must be strict. A meeting loses its effectiveness if too many people are involved: so if someone has no useful function, explain this and suggest that they do not come. Notice, they may disagree with your assessment, in which case they should attend (since they may know something you do not); however, most people are only too happy to be released from yet another meeting.
c. How long?
It may seem difficult to predict the length of a discussion - but you must. Discussions tend to fill the available time which means that if the meeting is open-ended, it will drift on forever. You should stipulate a time for the end of the meeting so that everyone knows, and everyone can plan the rest of their day with confidence.
It is wise to make this expectation known to everyone involved well in advance and to remind them at the beginning of the meeting. There is often a tendency to view meetings as a little relaxation since no one person has to be active throughout. You can redress this view by stressing the time-scale and thus forcing the pace of the discussion: "this is what we have to achieve, this is how long we have to get it done".
If some unexpected point arises during the meeting then realize that since it is unexpected:
- you might not have the right people present,
- those there may not have the necessary information, and
- a little thought might save a lot of discussion.
If the new discussion looks likely to be more than a few moments, stop it and deal with the agreed agenda.
The new topic should then be dealt with at another "planned" meeting.
The purpose of an agenda is to inform participants of the subject of the meeting in advance, and to structure the discussion at the meeting itself. To inform people beforehand, and to solicit ideas, you should circulate a draft agenda and ask for notice of any other business. Still before the meeting, you should then send the revised agenda with enough time for people to prepare their contributions. If you know in advance that a particular participant will either need information or be providing information, then make this explicitly clear so that there is no confusion.
The agenda states the purpose of each section of the meeting. There will be an outcome from each section. If that outcome is so complex that it can not be summarized in a few points, then it was probably too complex to be assimilated by the participants. The understanding of the meeting should be sufficiently precise that it can be summarized in short form - so display that summary for all other interested parties to see. This form of display will emphasize to all that meetings are about achieving defined goals - this will help you to continue running efficient meetings in the future.
III. 4. Meeting Management - Concluding
Whether you actually sit as the Chair or simply lead from the side-lines, as the manager you must provide the necessary support to coordinate the contributions of the participants. The degree of control which you exercise over the meeting will vary throughout; if you get the structure right at the beginning, a meeting can effectively run itself especially if the participants know each other well. In a team, your role may be partially undertaken by others; but if not, you must manage.
a. Maintaining Communication
Your most important tools are:
- Clarification - always clarify: the purpose of the meeting, the time allowed the rules to be observed (if agreed) by everyone.
- Summary - at each stage of the proceedings, you should summarize the current position and progress: this is what we have achieved/agreed, this is where we have reached.
- Focus on stated goals - at each divergence or pause, re-focus the proceedings on the original goals.
b. Code of conduct
In any meeting, it is possible to begin the proceedings by establishing a code of conduct, often by merely stating it and asking for any objections (which will only be accepted if a demonstrably better system is proposed). Thus if the group contains opinionated wind-bags, you might all agree at the onset that all contributions should be limited to two minutes (which focuses the mind admirably). You can then impose this with the full backing of the whole group.
c. Matching method to purpose
The (stated) purpose of a meeting may suggest to you a specific way of conducting the event, and each section might be conducted differently. For instance, if the purpose is:
- to convey information, the meeting might begin with a formal presentation followed by questions
- to seek information, the meeting would start with a short (clear) statement of the topic/problem and then an open discussion supported by notes on a display, or a formal brainstorming session
- to make a decision, the meeting might review the background and options, establish the criteria to be applied, agree who should make the decision and how, and then do it
- to ratify/explain decisions, etc
As always, once you have paused to ask yourself the questions: what is the purpose of the meeting and how can it be most effectively achieved; your common sense will then suggest a working method to expedite the proceedings. You just have to deliberately pause. Manage the process of the meeting and the meeting will work.
The success of a meeting will often depend upon the confidence with which the individuals will participate. Thus all ideas should be welcome. No one should be laughed at or dismissed ("laughed with" is good, "laughed at" is destructive). This means that even bad ideas should be treated seriously - and at least merit a specific reason for not being pursued further. Not only is this supportive to the speaker, it could also be that a good idea has been misunderstood and would be lost if merely rejected. But basically people should be able to make naive contributions without being made to feel stupid, otherwise you may never hear the best ideas of all.
Avoid direct criticism of any person. For instance, if someone has not come prepared then that fault is obvious to all. If you leave the criticism as being simply that implicit in the peer pressure, then it is diffuse and general; if you explicitly rebuke that person, then it is personal and from you (which may raise unnecessary conflict). You should merely seek an undertaking for the missing preparation to be done: we need to know this before we can proceed, could you circulate it to us by tomorrow lunch?
e. Responding to problems
The rest of this section is devoted to ideas of how you might deal with the various problems associated with the volatile world of meetings. Some are best undertaken by the designated Chair; but if he/she is ineffective, or if no one has been appointed, you should feel free to help any meeting to progress. After all, why should you allow your time to be wasted.
If a participant strays from the agenda item, call him/her back: "we should deal with that separately, but what do you feel about the issue X?"
If there is confusion, you might ask: "do I understand correctly that ...?"
If the speaker begins to ramble, wait until an inhalation of breath and jump in: "yes I understand that such and such, does any one disagree?"
If a point is too woolly or too vague ask for greater clarity: "what exactly do you have in mind?"
If someone interrupts (someone other than a rambler), you should suggest that: "we hear your contribution after Gretchen has finished."
If people chat, you might either simply state your difficulty in hearing/concentrating on the real speaker. or ask them a direct question: "what do you think about that point."
If someone gestures disagreement with the speaker (e.g. by a grimace), then make sure they are brought into the discussion next: "what do you think Gretchen?"
If you do not understand, say so: "I do not understand that, would you explain it a little more; or do you mean X or Y?"
If there is an error, look for a good point first: "I see how that would work if X Y Z, but what would happen if A B C?"
If you disagree, be very specific: "I disagree because ..."
The tower of Babel collapsed because people could no longer communicate; their speech became so different that no one could understand another. We need to communicate to coordinate our own work and that of others. The key is to treat a conversation as well as any other activity: by establishing an aim, planning what to do, and checking afterwards that the aim has been achieved. Only in this way can we work effectively with others in building through common effort.
V. Practical Application
The aim of this workshop is to provide the listeners a fundamental understanding of what constitutes creative communications.
- develop awareness of professional approaches in relation to their attitudes, actions and communication skills;
- learn more about professional approaches to oral and written forms of communication;
- work with others as effective members of a team, demonstrating understanding of the importance of co-operative behavior;
- prepare and deliver effective meetings getting your message across loud and clear.
VI. Suggested Readings:
Curran, J.C., Verbal and non-verbal communication (cpd Ltd, 1988)
Hague, P. & Roberts, K., Presentations and Report Writing, (Kogan Page, 1994 Subjects: Business presentations Business report writing Marketing research
Hargie, O.D.W., "A handbook of communication skills, 2nd ed., (London: Routledge, 1997) <http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=K4k9t3FMclcC&oi=fnd&pg=RA1-PA289&sig=dh9O0DjAznCvzfpGbnwayibrfkQ&dq=%22Hargie%22+%22The+Handbook+of+Communication+Skills%22+#PPA359,M1>"_
Klepper, M.M. & Gunther, R.E., I'd rather die than give a speech, (Irwin, 1994)
Written in an engaging and readable style, this practical guide is a must for both beginners and seasoned professionals
Rawlins, K., Presentation and communication skills: a handbook for practitioners, (MacMillan, 1993)
Russon, A. & Wallace H., Personal Development for Work (South-Western Publishing Co., 1981)
Siddons, S., Presentation skills, (Institute of Personnel and Development, 1998)
Turk, C., Effective Speaking: communicating in speech, (Spon, 1985)
Smith, D., Powerful presentation skills: how to get a group's attention, Vol.1, 2 and 3, (Careertrack, 1997)