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Communication is one of the most important skills we can invest in as leaders. Developing a healthy culture of communication can make a real difference to your organisation and personal life. If we let these values be infused into all that we do that will be the result. This is part two of a set of core values that have helped me navigate the interpersonal communication space.
If you missed numbers 1-3 you can catch on them here. Without further ado, here is the next 3.
4. Think Win-Win
When we think about conflict, particularly for the competitive amongst us, we immediately ask the question: how can I win!?
Often that is what we learn in the school playground. How can I use my words to win. Either to persuade someone else I’m right or overpower them. Coming back to the goal of communication this causes us to lose sight of the other person. We will not be able to understand their perspective or their needs if we only consider ourselves.
Stephen Covey made the concept of Win/Win popular through his book – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People*. Though the concept is found elsewhere and arguably simply part of the golden rule given to us by Jesus – do to others what you would have them do to you.
The idea is that when our communication is at its healthiest, even in conflict, we seek to find a solution in which both parties can “win”. It requires understanding the needs of the other and then seeing if there is a suitable outcome where both parties benefit.
The unhealthy approaches to this are various in their form.
- Win/Lose – in order for me to get what I want you have to lose!
- Lose/Win – in this conflict I will choose to lose so that you can win. Being a victim.
- Lose/Lose – if I’m going to lose – everyone is going to lose!
Given these alternatives having a win/win approach to conversations is a great way to value others and ourselves.
5. Seek First To Understand
Another one from Stephen Covey’s classic book – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People*. Often if we are honest we approach potentially challenging conversations with our speeches prepared. We are ready to convey our main points, thinking through possible rebuttals and armed with some ‘truth’ bombs!
Seeking first to understand means we put our planned thinking to the side. We choose to try and understand the other persons perspective first, before we even begin to share our thoughts.
Not only is this a hugely humble and loving perspective to take, it is also a highly effective approach to communication. If we can really understand the other side, even if we still find ourselves disagreeing, we will now be better prepared. We will discover where our perspective was lacking. We may even discover that there is complete agreement.
Understanding before speaking enables us to appear far wiser than if we go first and end up sounding ignorant!
6. Connection Before Content
Similarly to understanding others – connecting with people is at the core of our relationships. Sometimes the reason a conflict or difficulty has arisen is simply a lack of relational connection. By choosing to connect first we begin the rebuild the bridge of relationship before attempting to walk over it.
Connecting can be as simple as reaffirming the value we have for the other person. It may include expressing our future hopes for the relationship.
This kind of connection creates the kind of relational safety that is needed to have vulnerable and challenging conversations.
By going first and affirming connection we may discover that the actual content we thought we needed to deliver is unnecessary. Even if not, we have created some safety in which to begin. I often have to remind myself, the content can wait.
7. Humble and Powerful
I’m not sure if this value is perfectly expressed though let me try and explain what I mean by these terms.
Firstly humility is key in conversations. We don’t know the other person’s perspective, we don’t know the back story, we don’t know that our perspective is correct. We also will need to take responsibility for our words. It’s important we are not careless.
The attitude that we may have something wrong is a great way to approach things.
However by this humility I don’t mean to imply we should let others walk over us. We also must remain powerful. Which is to say we own our words, needs and desires. We will clearly convey our thoughts and won’t be overpowered by someone else. We have appropriate boundaries if we are not being valued and our humility doesn’t mean we simply accept whatever someone else says. We are not victims to others.
If we are being treated disrespectfully we will step away from the conversation and return when respect is there. Humility doesn’t require us to accept any behaviour!
We want to be the combination of humble and powerful.
I’ve now shared 7 values that I try let shape my approach to communication. I’d love to hear from you. What resonates with you? What is missing?
Let me know in the comments.
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