Few situations are more frustrating than when having to communicate something important and yet not knowing exactly how to communicate effectively. It may put a strain on relationships of all kinds. Co-workers or employees can feel put off or even actively defend against what you say if you can’t articulate your needs and wants in a reasonable way to them. You might think that some leaders are naturally gifted communicators and some just aren’t. However, nothing could be further from the truth. With just a bit of practice and effort, you too can learn how to communicate effectively at work. Here are 3 simple steps.
Step 1: Communicate the Facts Without Judgment
Have you ever tried to tell a co-worker or employee they need to improve something at work? It can be extremely difficult and delicate, especially if it’s about something personal like workplace hygiene, or even as simple as where they park their car. If you’re like most supervisors, you’ve possibly said something like: “Hey, every day at work you park in the wrong space. Can you stop?” Unfortunately, this is the kind of statement that immediately puts someone on their heels, and moves them from “listening” to “defending.”
So as to avoid that emotional response, take all the emotion out of it. Just tell them the simple, honest facts, without judgment words like “wrong”. A good example would be something like: “For (number of days) now, I’ve seen you park in a space designated for clients.” This is clear and dry, without judgment or an accusation of wrongness.
Step 2: Understand Someone’s Needs When Communicating
People don’t do things randomly. Even the most impulsive behavior has a motivation behind it, a need that has to be met. When deciding how to communicate effectively with someone, consider how they are trying to meet their own needs. This will teach you to distance the person from their actions. It will also show you how to “walk in their shoes” in order to understand their perspective. So before communicating, try to get a sense of what needs the individual had in doing what he or she did. That way, you can remain more level headed and less emotional during the conversation.
Step 3: Use a 3-part Assertion Message
It is also important to express your own needs as you communicate your requests. The 3-part assertion message is an effective method for communication during a conflict. It contains the following three ingredients: Action, Emotion, and Need.
- Call out the action you see without judgment (see Step 1 above).
- Express how you feel when witnessing that action.
- Reveal the underlying need you have and make a request.
In the example we’ve used, maybe say: “For the last five days, I’ve seen you park in a space designated for clients. I feel frustrated because I need that space to be open for clients, so they never have a problem finding parking.” Finally, ask them if they are clear. “So we both understand, would you tell me what you’ve heard me say?” Then, they can summarise what you’ve said, so both of you are on the same page.
Finally, allow them space to indicate their feelings and needs to you. And just listen. Now that you both understand how one another is feeling and what each of you needs, you can hopefully work out the solution.
Learning How to Communicate Effectively with PPS’ Help
Improving communication skills is a journey that never really ends. For more assistance, reach out to Pollack Peacebuilding Systems, a team of experts who teach individuals and organizations how to communicate effectively.