One of the goals in any relationship or team is honest, open, clear communication. And if it’s really good communication, it may even be short, to the point, and clever.
I think a few businesses got it right when they posted these signs.
- In a nonsmoking area: “If we see smoke, we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action.”
- At an optometrist’s office “If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.”
- Outside a muffler shop: “No appointment necessary. We hear you coming.”
- In a veterinarian’s waiting room: “Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!”
- At a propane filling station: “Thank heaven for little grills.”
In the last two issues of the Tuesday Tip, I’ve given you five of my Ten Commandments for Awesome Communication. A bunch of you have written me asking for the other five Commandments. So here are a few more.
► 6. Evaluate how well you communicate.
Most people just talk but they never think about how well they talk. And that goes for all their communication … from their informal chit chats at home to a formal presentation at work.
Without some evaluation on how well you talk, you will never improve your communication effectiveness. And that’s bound to hurt you on and off the job.
That’s why I’ve written out an evaluation of every one of the 3000+ presentations I’ve given over the years. In fact, if a client asked me to come back and speak at their company again, I know every joke, story, or point I made so I wouldn’t repeat myself … even though their presentation may have been 5, 10 or even 20 years ago. I know how well I did, what the audience reaction was like, what went especially well, and what could be improved.
You may not need to be that systematic about it. But if you’re serious about improving your communication ability, it isn’t going to happen all by itself. It will come as the result of some self-examination, some feedback from others, and some work.
► 7. Ask More Questions.
The reason is simple. So much of the time we just don’t get it right. We misunderstand a lot of what is being said to us.
And the only way to ensure understanding is to ask more questions.
It’s what one obese man should have done when he went to see his doctor. The doctor put him on strict diet and said, “I want you to eat regularly for two days and then skip a day. Repeat this procedure for two weeks, and the next time I see you, you should have lost at least five pounds.”
When the patient returned, he shocked the doctor by having lost nearly 30 pounds! “Why, that’s amazing!” the doctor said, “Did you follow my instructions?”
Weakly the patient nodded, “I’ll tell you though, by the end of each third day, I thought I was going to drop dead.”
“From hunger, you mean?” the doctor asked. “No,” responded his patient, “from skipping all day!”
In my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary experience, I teach people how to ask the right questions to build the best relationships. I call it asking Brave Questions.
Donna McCullough, from the Cedar Rapids School District, was a Journey attendee. And the technique transformed her family.
Denise says, “This past year we had Thanksgiving dinner for our three adult children in our blended family. I placed the Brave Questions you taught me under the dinner plates. As the meal progressed, each person read and answered their question. The purpose was to help everyone get to know each other better since my husband and I have been married only 5-1/2 years. Some of the questions were:
“What is one holiday you will never forget? What holiday tradition would you like to establish in your family? Describe a memory of spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with your grandparents. What is something you did that was ‘out of character’ for you?
“All three kids listed their most memorable holidays as the two different Christmases the five of us spent together. Not only did ‘Brave Questions’ provide conversation during dinner, but showed us that our efforts have paid off and our family has truly blended. Your Journey techniques have changed our lives for the better.”
(P.S. My next Journey-to-the-Extraordinary experience will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 21-22, 2019. And right now you can take advantage of the Super Early-Early-Bird Special and save $600 on your tuition. Register now.)
► 8. Look for the heart rather than judge the surface.
Most of us are snap judgment makers. We look at people and automatically think: “I like that … I don’t like that … I approve … disapprove … agree … disagree … accept … don’t accept … and … wonder when will they ever learn … or … what’s wrong with that person?”
Snap judgments seldom do us or the other people or our communication any good. They put distance between us and other people. They cause us to disconnect rather than connect with one another.
But I’ve found a way to get around all that: Look for the other person’s heart and intentions. Lots of people have good hearts and good intentions, but they lack the skill to communicate that well. So we get upset with those folks or simply write them off.
Such was the case in our church last Easter. My mother-in-law was leading the choir, which was almost entirely all women, with the exception of Big Jack. Big Jack was a newcomer, but he was so enthusiastic that he volunteered for every job around the church, including the choir.
Come Easter Sunday, when the choir was giving their performance, Big Jack was by far the loudest singer and by far the worst. He drowned out most of the other choir members with his terrible off-pitch singing. In fact, it was so bad, that several members of the congregation started laughing when Big Jack began to sing, thinking it was done on purpose for some comical reason.
And then suddenly, the church went quiet. People began to cry. They realized they had judged the surface of his performance rather than his heart. When they took a second look, they saw a man filled with joy, praise, and thanksgiving, and he was singing his best to worship his Lord.
What I learned that day is an important communication lesson for all of us. When you’re about to judge someone else, slow down. Look below the surface to see their heart. It will help you connect with that difficult coworker, customer, or relative.
Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 969 – The 10 Commandments of Awesome Connective Communication (part 3)