To give you a head start in strengthening your personal and organizational effectiveness, here are some themes that appear throughout the book:
Communicate early and often. More precisely, communicate with appropriate parties
- when a relationship is new—in order to build a strong foundation
- throughout the relationship to ensure you’re in sync and to make adjustments if appropriate
- when you become aware of a communication gap—so that you can take steps to close it before it widens
- Communicate in multiple ways. The workaday world operates at a hectic and often chaotic pace. If you want to ensure that your messages reach your intended destination, convey them in multiple ways, using verbal and written communication, words and images, e-mail and telephone. In addition, alternate between informing and listening, and between providing and requesting clarification.
- Communicate about how you’re going to communicate. Let people know how you are going to keep them informed and how you wish to give and receive feedback. Tell them how quickly you expect to respond to their requests, ideas, and suggestions. Discuss how you will respect each other’s communication preferences and how you’ll handle conflict. The earlier in any undertaking you communicate about how you’re going to communicate, the fewer snags you’ll run into later.
- Give and get clarification. Don’t assume that your message always reaches the other party in the manner you intend or that you always receive the other party’s message in the manner it is intended. In both cases, it is important to check and double-check. Ask questions. Verify that you and the other party both understand what is being said. Finally, accept the fact that, despite your best efforts, miscommunication will occur. Try to understand what caused the miscommunication, but be gentle with yourself. Perfection is impossible; just do the best you can.
- Apply a generous interpretation. When someone responds in a puzzling, confusing, or disturbing way to something you say or do, try to refrain from responding in kind, lashing out, finding fault, or jumping to conclusions. Often, the explanation for the person’s response is much simpler, and far more positive, than anything you might imagine. Therefore, start by considering positive interpretations, and ask questions to validate your impressions.
- Communicate congruently. Congruent communication, as described by the late family therapist Virginia Satir, balances self, other, and context—that is, your own needs, desires, and goals (self); those of other parties (other); and the setting or environment in which you’re interacting (context).2 Incongruent communication is that which leaves one or more of these out of the mix, resulting in an imbalance.