Developing Communication and Social Skills, Part III of Improving Shitty Communication…

Part I emphasized that in order to become good at something, one first has to recognize that one’s not good at it.  Those who think they’re good communicators are less likely to work on their communication and social skills.  One has to work to become good at something.

Part II worked toward a theory of good communication and social skills.  There isn’t one absolute act and style of communication that’s “good.”  What’s “good” depends on situation and context.  It may be appropriate for a CEO to scream bloody murder at one of his executives who screwed up, but inappropriate to do the same to his receptionist or janitor.  The ones who are “good” are adaptable and flexible, able to read and keep up with rapidly evolving circumstances.  Hillary Clinton may be, if rumors are to be believed, foul mouthed and mercurial behind closed doors, but presents a different persona when communicating to constituents.  Put simply, good communication depends on:

1. Recognizing that each person has a different set of standards, values, and vocabulary
2. Figuring out how to negotiate differences, to communicate across cognitive and social divide.

In other words, don’t assume everyone wants what you want in life.  Those who don’t recognize difference are shitty communicators.  These primarily communicate for praise or empathy, not for deeper understanding.

To improve communication and social skills, we practice the following:

Ask questions, especially responding to questions with questions.  We’ll practice when it’snot busy.  Doing this requires thinking instead of rote memorization.  So when a customer asks “What’s your favorite drink,” we typically respond with a question, such as “do you like something fruity?”  Customer doesn’t really care what your favorite drink is.  Customer is just asking you to recommend a drink he’ll like.  Poor communicators don’t recognize that taste is subjective.  They don’t recognize difference, so they often don’t understand what’s being communicated to them.

Frame statements as something one “thinks” or “believes” instead of how one “feels.”  To begin a statement with “I feel” blurs line between emotion and rational thought.  Emphasis on how one feels is cop-out, a refusal to take responsibility for how one thinks, and leads to self-absorption and self-centeredness, making it difficult to recognize difference.  Part II surmised that those who are focused on (one’s) feelings tend to work in low-profile, low-wage jobs.  They become angry when someone doesn’t empathize with or praise them and they tend to be non-judgmental toward those who transgress values and standards.  Those who “think” and “believe” are less likely to seek empathy and are more likely to become angry and judgmental when someone disregards values and standards they hold dear.  That’s why it’s so common for those at the top to call each other all sorts of crude names.  That talk bounces off of them.  What brings executives to tears is when visions clash and a standard isn’t met (and when they’re betrayed).

Mimic person we’re talking to.  We’re big on mimicking, or mirroring pace and tone of customer and colleague.  If customer is frantic, we speed the pace to let them know that we realize they’re frantic. It communicates that we care about them as an individual.  Occasionally we’ll practice mimicking speech patterns.

That’s it. )Probably missing a lot of other approaches to improving communication and social skills).  Occasionally, we’ll also practice reading body language and other forms of communication, like clothing. Part IV, examples, coming soon.

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