Let’s face it–In a hyper connected and crazy ‘do it now or otherwise it will never get done’ world, communicating from the perspective of the other person is the last thing on anyone’s mind. Well-meaning leaders can derail in times of stress, because other priorities take precedence and fuzzy communication concepts such as courtesy and consideration seem impossible to apply when they are most required.
The issue with ignoring basic communication guidelines is that one often creates a bigger mess which takes an even longer time and energy to mop up. Often the scars run deep and the ‘victims’ strike back at surprising moments. Suddenly, it becomes clear that by spending an extra five minutes in crafting a communication message sensitively, could have saved a day’s worth of clarifications and meetings. The extra five minutes could also have helped the leader in building greater influence within the organization and standing out from the insensitive crowd.
So, how are we supposed to go from nonchalant to committed to a positive outcome in those five minutes you ask? I suggest that we use those minutes by talking to our rational brain and ignoring our lizard or reptilian brain. You might be skeptical about this solution and I can try to alleviate your concern in two ways.
First, I have been using these brain strategies for years and whenever I have messed up, it has usually been because I allowed the lizard brain to take over. So, these techniques have a personal ring to them.
Second, there is considerable reading material out there that supports these methods. One book I loved reading recently was the The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism. There are many practical tips to harness one’s brain power in this book. There are many more that you can read.
For the sake of this discussion, let us imagine that a peer sends you an email, ccing your boss, saying that he is disappointed with the delays related to a certain project and wants you to take responsibility for those delays.
How can you prevent this exchange from turning into a disaster?
Visualize Success Despite Challenges
A retaliatory strike could be devastating for your relationship with the coworker, your image in front of your boss, and your overall self-esteem.
By visualizing the purpose or end goal of this communication, you can calm yourself down and reply in a more rational and controlled manner. Visualization typically involves vivid imagery and seeing things clearly in one’s mind. Prior to visualizing, try to breathe deeply and transport yourself mentally out of the current situation.
By imagining a completed project where everyone is happy, and quickly thinking of the possible action- steps (these might change) that can be taken to get to that point, you can confidently suggest an in-person meeting. It is important to get the face-to-face connection done quickly and work out actionable steps to resolve this situation. Left festering, it is likely that this situation will worsen.
Let Compassion Work Its Way
The person who sent this email, might be having a really bad day at work. There could be many factors bothering this individual: home situation, personal problems, illness, job issues etc. Since it is impossible to ignore this email, we need to build into our toolkit different methods to achieve our goal of a successfully completed project. Compassion is one of them. Maybe we do actually know of what is bothering this person. Thinking about what we would be like if we had the same problem, might enable us to put on a different hat and respond to this situation in a better way.
Take it in Stride
Say to yourself– stuff happens, let us move on to the next step. By developing mental resilience you can overcome hurtful situations such as these. It is important to note that this is not the end of the world. This technique is difficult to apply when one is already reeling with too many deadlines and stressors, but recognizing that one should always have mental space for such derailers will help you channel your thoughts more productively.
Train yourself to convert negativity to positive thoughts. You have heard of looking at the glass half full. Well this is exactly what this is. What is the flip side of this email? This person is reaching out, there is an unresolved issue that you were unaware of, isn’t it great you found this now, before it was too late? What a save!
When you use these techniques before you communicate with others, you will find that your communication will be more productive and your influence will grow as a result of your calm and composed disposition. I think you will be happy with the outcomes of these techniques. Do let us know what you think.