Do you want to be heard more at work? Here is a brief game plan for talking to a coworker or manager about an idea, problem or solution.
- Start positive. Depending on your audience, this may need to be incredibly brief, or just brief. If you are talking to a “driver” or “Type A” personality, keep the positive introduction to a sentence (maybe two).
- Lay the foundation quickly. One to three sentences usually will get you and your audience thinking about the same topic. Everyone comes to a conversation differently. The point is to get aligned and to “tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em.”
- Make your point. This is where you voice your concern or present your idea.
- Illustrate your point. We are a visual world. If you have something for the person to view, it may enhance the conversation. If you don’t have a visualization, then give examples to illustrate your point.
- Ask for feedback. This step is very important. You want to engage the person to whom you are speaking.
- Listen to the feedback. Take notes. Listen. Listen. Listen.
- Discuss feedback. Ask questions. Take more notes.
- Agree to next steps with a time frame.
- Summarize what was decided (or not decided). A summary is not a rehash. Just a few sentences here should do the trick.
- End on a high note. This is important, but should be a natural end to the conversation. Make sure your audience leaves with a good impression.
Preparation. If you are new to communicating with purpose, jot down your steps and rehearse once before the actual conversation. Each time you use this method, you’ll be better. Don’t expect miracles. Be disciplined in your approach, and develop an organized pattern to move a discussion forward. People will really start to hear you sooner than you think.
Word Choice. “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” Mark Twain. No matter how carefully you prepare, sometimes your message gets lost. Words do actually matter. When you are listening, listen for the intended message, and try to ignore poor word choices. Ask questions to verify you are understanding the speaker’s intent. As the speaker, make sure your message is heard during feedback, agreement and summary.
Communication isn’t always the problem. “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Charles Dudley Warner. Sometimes communication won’t resolve an issue. Maybe things can be better, but not resolved. Don’t be discouraged.
Always Follow-Up. Whatever you promised to do in the meeting, you must do. Otherwise, the communication is wasted. Calendar action items and deadlines, and deliver on your promises.
This basic communication format can be used in a variety of settings. Whether you are having a discussion one-on-one, or a group meeting, make sure you are communicating with a purpose.
When it comes to communication, it’s the quality not the quantity that matters most.