Friday, March 8, 2013

Personal Resilience 101: Effective Communication

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.
~Anthony Robbins~

“It is difficult to communicate effectively if we lack empathy,” says Robert Brooks PH.D and Sam Goldstein PH.D, authors of The Power of Resilience. They point out, “If we neglect to consider the perspective of others, then our words and actions will often miss the mark.”
A Lesson I Learned

When I became a first-time manager with Marriott’s Courtyard division, my zeal to prove myself and perform my duties at the highest level res resulted in me creating undue stress on myself and my co-workers. A few months in the position, Mary, a member of the housekeeping staff met with the hotel’s GM explaining to her that the manner in which I had spoken to her about completing a specific task in her words, “was totally disrespectful”. When I was called to my boss’s office, I was unaware of Mary being present. When I entered, Mary appeared upset and I was not sure why.
It was not until my boss asked her to repeat what she had told her did I recognize that “I was the reason why Mary was upset”. She looked me straight in my eyes and told me, “You spoke to me in a tone I felt was disrespectful, you wouldn’t want anyone speaking to you like that.” I had assumed that because the hotel employees had worked with me for some time that they would understand the pressure that I felt in proving myself. They may have understood, but that still didn’t give me the right to speak to anyone disrespectful. The assumption that my co-workers would not take what I say personally, regardless of the manner in which I said it, was a huge mistake.

 After actively listening to Mary’s concerns, she informed me that her concerns were not alone, but was shared my others in the department. I recognize in that moment that this habit could hinder my progress with the company. I set an intention to upgrading my communication and leadership skills. The initial change steps were outlined in my post: Improve Any Relationship with STOP, START and CONTINUE.

I was fortunate that Mary had the courage to speak her truth. As a result, I continuously searched for ways to grow my communication and leadership skills. This would lead to taking advantage of on-the-job training, as well as engaging the Dale Carnegie Leadership Course. I had the pleasure of becoming a student assistant of the program providing me with additional opportunities to share what I learned in my class while encouraging and helping others gain value from the program.

Before I came to the awareness of how the tone in which I was speaking to my co-workers came across as disrespectful, I gave it little thought. Chalking it up, as “the way I am”. Recognizing that if I was going to achieve my goal of being a highly effective manager, I would have to rethink and revise my approach to management, leadership and communicating with my co-workers. Engaging the STOP, START AND CONTINUE approach enabled me to have one-on-one conversations with staff member to truly understand how my actions were being perceived by them. I was willing to admit that I was wrong and that I didn’t know it all to gain the trust necessary for honest communication during these meetings. I understood that my success as a manager was greatly influenced by the success of my staff and that would not happen if they felt I did not respect them.

What Can You Learn?

In the book, The Power of Resilience, Brooks and Goldstein suggest the following questions to help us communicate effectively with others:

·         What goal am I attempting to achieve in this communication?

·         Am I saying or doing things in a manner in which others will be most responsive to what I have to say?

·         Would I want someone to speak to me the way I speak to others?

·         How would others describe me as I communicate with them?

·         What makes it easier for me to listen to what others have to say?

·         What do others say or do that turns me off and keeps me from listening to their message?

·         Even if I disagree with someone, do I at least value his or her point of view?

Most of us can think about moments in which someone “rubbed us the wrong way”. Rarely do we consider how our actions, even if they are intentionally, could be “rubbing someone the wrong way”. We walk through life with assumptions about our relationships instead of facing the “naked truth” about their state. When we assume that our way of communication is not unreasonable considering “all that we do and have given in a relationship”, we set ourselves up for disconnects in our relationships, personal and professional.
Effective communication with others is built on trust and respect for the feelings and thoughts of others. Only a commitment of seeking to understand others via active listening can we improve the effectiveness of our communication and the state of our relationships.

I agree with Brooks and Goldstein, empathy is a prerequisite for effective communication. The more we practice it, the more apt we are to gain the understanding and wisdom necessary for cultivating rewarding personal and professional relationships.
What has been some of your challenges and successes with developing effective communication skills? Share your comments below so that others can learn and grow from your wealth of wisdom. Share this post and inspire possibility in the lives of those in your social network. Thanks in advance, Jackie.

It’s Your Move. Aspire Higher.