Sunday, September 27, 2009

Keep it Safe

Creating safety in a conversation is critical. Once we lose safety, we need to immediately stop and try to regain it. How do we know when the safety is draining away, and how do we go about establishing it again.

One big clue is when a participant in the conversation starts to talk about something other than the TOPIC of the conversation. For instance, imagine you are talking about the difficulty in correctly scheduling resources for a given project. Your counterpart says “I don’t know what your problem is. Why do you feel the need to control every little detail?”

We aren’t talking about the project anymore, are we? We are talking about YOU.

There are several ways you can respond here. I want you to think about some that you may have heard:

- “Controlling every little detail is called ‘doing the job’. Maybe if you tried it, you wouldn’t have so many failed projects!”
- “What’s MY problem?? What’s YOUR problem?!”
- “Wow – are YOU ever defensive!”

Let’s say you responded with this:

“I hear you saying that you think I might be controlling insignificant aspects of the project. Is that what you’re saying? How do you see me doing that?”

-By NOT responding to what could obviously be interpreted as a challenge, you give the benefit of the doubt.
- By asking if you understood properly instead of reacting, you are showing that you are interested in understanding their point of view
- By asking for more information, you show that you value them.

At this point, most people will feel safe again – enough to continue to talk about the TOPIC. This is how you will learn what they see, and add it to your own perspective. Or, you could also give them one of the OTHER responses we talked about. We both know that won’t help.

Learning THE SCORE and integrating that perspective into your communication style will change the way you are perceived by others. You will be “safe to talk to”. That way, you will be recognized as someone who helps others get all the information out on the table so we can make better decisions.

That’s who you want to be. That's what you want to make happen.

Insist on great business results! Go to Pathfinder Communication

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