Bridging Communication Gaps in a Transforming, Time-Challenged World
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W O R D S C O U N T ™
series of continuing essays about the link between
communication and success in today's world
WORDS COUNT WHEN
COUNT™ IN BUSINESS
does communication have to do with success?
look at it this way: How can we achieve extraordinary results
if we're only having ordinary conversations? And what about
the conversations we avoid altogether or, by the time we have
them, it's almost too late?
years of troubleshooting-in businesses, nonprofits and
government-has shown me that most roadblocks are caused by
someone's failure to have successfully had a vital, yet
seemingly difficult conversation with a customer, patient,
partner, peer, vendor, employee, boss, constituent, or Board
member. These conversations-about tricky personnel issues,
pricing, clarifying expectations, misunderstandings,
differences of opinion, and responding to change-are
conversations that we often avoid, don't know we need to have,
or conduct in (costly) ways that don't get the results
email to colleagues,
proposal for a new program,
my one-on-one with an employee or a patient.
do I know that what I said was what they heard and
heard was what I meant?
And what about what I (or they) didn't
Someone once said, "words are cheap." I beg to differ. Words cost.
Words cost time, money, and relationships when not spoken at the right time, in the right way, to the right person. Most importantly, the key ingredient required for a successful conversation is all but lost in today's just do it world. What's missing in most conversations in organizations? Curiosity!* We assume, conclude, judge, think we know the answer and we miss most of what was said and neither we nor the other person may realize this.
And it costs us in time and effort to even discover the "missed understanding" let alone remedy it.
Often we don't realize that our conversations in the workplace create a confusion that has a cost-in lost productivity, people, and profits. It's often the conversations you are not having that cost you the most.
You can't go beyond where you are if you won't talk about it.
One of the things I've discovered is a process to help professionals have a clarity in their conversations that enables them to seize opportunities and solve problems far more effectively. It takes courage to admit that you don't have the answer. And it takes a commitment to being more than just "right" to learn what you don't know. What are you committed to?
This is the power of courageous conversations
*To see curiosity in action see the excerpt
YOU PEOPLE ARE INCOMPETENT:
Turning angry customers into loyal fans
from the Healing Conversations in the Workplace section of the book.
WORDS COUNT WHEN DISASTER STRIKES
to Say and What Not to Say to
Disaster Survivors and
all know the statistics: Devastation. We've seen the
We want to help. Here's
something we all can do - whether you are a survivor, a
witness, an employer, a volunteer or are about to
embrace survivors in your city and don't know what to
Here's some important coaching on what to say or
what not to say when reaching out to survivors of
disasters and to those who are mobilizing to help them.
you possibly say to help someone who is living in say
the aftermath of a major hurricane such as Katrina or a
terrorist bombing in London, Madrid or Bali? Contrary to what many people think, talk
isn't cheap, words matter and it pays to Pause and
THINK before we automatically try to tell someone who is
in the midst of a disaster that:
"we're sorry" or
"at least you are alive" or we
ask or simply think to ourselves,
"why didn't you leave when they asked you to?"
can you really say or do for a friend who tells you
he fled his devastated city in a caravan of family
members... and tells you despite everything
he plans to eventually return home to rebuild?
do you say to a client who has lost not just her
business but also an entire town, her way of life
and an entire industry?
can you do for a colleague who has no idea of what
to do first because the loss is so overwhelming?
kind of friend can you be to a neighbor whose
relatives are missing or have died?
can you be supportive for a friend whose family is
trying to figure out a way to reach their stranded
parents who fled to a city that is now without
power, communications, or transportation?
you say to employees who are distracted and trying
to help friends and family or who are on the front
lines themselves, overwhelmed with the magnitude of
people's suffering and need?
- How do
you support someone whose friend or family member is
volunteering to help, or has been deployed to help
at shelters on the Gulf Coast, South Florida or even
a Caribbean Island - and is now in the midst of
TIPS FOR TALKING TO SURVIVORS, VOLUNTEERS
AND FIRST RESPONDERS
way to help people who are in shock or who are trying to
help others is to realize:
need to talk
and they need us to listen without interrupting
don't always want us to take charge
and tell them what to do-at
least not right away.
Often they want to feel that they have some control
in a world that feels turned upside down.
need a sounding board
to bounce ideas off of, to see if they can make sense of
their options-even if they seem unreasonable at
can ask them whether they would like some
suggestions or whether right now all they need
to do is think out loud or tell us their story
without our needing to do anything more than just
let them get it out of their system.
around the country also want to know what they should
NOT say to people who are going through a difficult
time? Here are some things to avoid saying, even
with the best of intentions:
NOT TO SAY
know how you feel".
Even if we have been through a
natural disaster or trauma, we can never really know how
someone feels and it can make people angry or resentful
to tell them that we know what they're going through.
We think it will make them feel that they aren't so
alone in what they're feeling. However, when people
are in the early days of a disaster it can be more
helpful to simply say...
"I cannot possibly know
how you feel at this moment. I'm thankful that you are
alive and I'll do what I can to help you-not just
for today, but also over the long haul."
me tell you what happened to me"
Maybe down the
road, later in their recovery, people can learn or laugh
when they hear your story but initially when people are
going through unimaginable loss they either want to talk
about their own feelings or may not even want to talk
about their story, let alone hear about yours. It is
O.K. if you give them the option by
not sure if it would help you to share what I learned
when .but if it would help either now or some other
time, I'd be willing to talk to you about it."
so glad you are O.K"
We mean well when we say this
but if you think about it, is someone really O.K. when
they have lost their home, their city, their
neighborhood, their friends and loved ones are missing,
perhaps they've lost pets and they have no idea of how
they will reinvent their life? What if we had the grace
and gentle courage to say what's in our
so relieved that you are alive. I was scared that you
had died or were badly hurt. I don't know what I would
do if you were missing or gone."
can I do?"
It's such a natural response to ask
this question and yet we've just unintentionally put
the burden on the person who needs our help to now help
us help them. Instead of automatically reaching out with
this question, take a few minutes to pause
and offer something specific that they can respond to
with a, "Gee thanks, well no I don't need that but
could you do this.or they might take you up on the
offer, later. Often people in shock or overwhelm can't
tell us what they need but once we make a few specific
suggestions it's easier for them to start thinking,
"ok, yes to that and no but what about this.?"
Some suggestions to get you started are listed below.
TO MAKE SPECIFIC OFFERS OF HELP
the Power of Pause® by taking some time to think
through some options for them - especially if they are
injured, ill, or are asking outright for your help. Some
honest with yourself, and them:
If after talking to your own family, you can
honestly open your home to someone, then go ahead,
as long as you take the time to be realistic with
yourself and with them about any limitations you
might have. They'll appreciate your candor and
won't feel that you are offering more than they
generous but don't insist:
If you can offer
someone money or a loan, even if they don't need
it right now, it may give them comfort to know they
can turn to you down the road if things get worse.
You could say, "I don't know whether this
would be helpful right now but if I were in your
shoes I might need help with finances so I'm happy
to offer it to you now, in increments, or later."
Even if they never need it they will feel that
you've put a deposit in their emotional bank
account and that counts.
a Care ForceT:
If you know someone
else who could open their home to a friend or
relative, that's also a possibility-you'd be
FORCET of friends helping
a resource broker:
Let them know what kinds of
resources you have access to that you can mobilize
on their behalf. Or, remembering that they may want
to be in control, tell them how they can contact
them. With the phone lines down and information in
short supply offer to make phone calls for them if
they can reach you via wireless or internet to give
you a list of what they need you to do. Tell them
you can track down information for them about
dealing with insurance, federal relief and other
kinds of assistance.
your network of spiritual support:
Find out what
your church or synagogue or other spiritual center
is doing to provide help as they may be a resource
and have answers or ideas you haven't thought of
to think about what you would or wouldn't accept
or want if you were in their shoes:
Remember, most of us aren't comfortable asking for
or accepting help. It can be especially comforting
to people who aren't used to asking for help much
less accepting it to make this offer to them:
don't hesitate to ask me for help and I promise
that if it's not something I can do I will tell
you. I'll do my best to find someone else who can
help you with that need or I'll tell you what I
can do instead."
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