Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Have you ever felt like you were misunderstood in a conversation? Direct communicators are often frustrated by the way other people perceive them. Miscommunication often occurs when people perceive that your attitude and intentions do not line up with your words. You want to be honest, but more importantly, other people need to see you as genuine. In today's episode, I will share my best tips for helping you ensure your actions line up with your words and improve your overall communication style.
Mind Your Tone
Any time you engage in a conversation, you should consider your tone. Did your comments fit into the overall tone? If not, you will likely be misunderstood. By paying attention to the tone of the conversation, you will be able to clarify your intentions as you go.
Mind Your Body Language
You can say the right things, but your body language will reveal your real feelings. When your body language does not match your words, people will believe your body language.
Demonstrate Your Good Intentions
When organizations value harmony over direct communication, people hesitate to speak freely about what is on their minds for fear of upsetting others. They choose to withhold their feedback for the sake of “team harmony.” But direct communication does not necessarily exclude harmony. If you know that the person talking to you wants to help you and not hurt you, direct communication can create useful feedback. As a direct communicator, you will need to work hard to build a brand of someone that has good intentions. You need others to trust that you mean well and value your integrity.
Q: How can you tell what someone’s intentions are? Describe a time when you thought you understood someone’s intention. What role did their body language play in your assumptions? Were you right or wrong? What were the results of your assumption?
Here are some ways direct communicators can improve their communication style:
1. Opt for face-to-face communication
A face-to-face conversation can help solve disagreements more efficiently than a series of short messages because it allows you to observe body language and interpret the tone of the conversation.
Q: Do you prefer face-to-face communication over texting or emailing? Why or why not? What kinds of emotions come up when you think about approaching an issue with someone face to face? How do you usually cope with those feelings?
2. Engage in active listening
Active listening is a strategy that will help you identify misunderstandings and stay engaged in the conversation. Listen without interrupting and repeat what you heard to ensure you understood them.
3. Learn to disagree
It is okay to disagree with people! Try using these steps to process your own emotions during a disagreement.
Pause. Do not respond right away.
Understand. Make sure you fully understand what was said.
Reflect. Try to clarify the other person's intention before making conclusions.
Reinterpret. Rephrase what was said to make sure you understood.
Redirect: Redirect any conversation that diverts the important parts of your conversation by focusing on you and your counterpart's mutual goals.
Q: Do you find yourself uncomfortable when you disagree with someone at work? What about at home? Why do you think you feel that way? What other strategies have you learned to help you disagree with people professionally?
5. Try to be more diplomatic
Take time between questions and be specific. For example, when you ask “why” or “why not?” you may come off blunt and defensive. Try pausing and then saying something like, “Can you give me a little more background on that?” You can also be diplomatic by softening your language when you are about to announce a negative opinion.
Q: What do you think it means to be diplomatic? How can you be diplomatic without wavering on your stance? Who do you know who is good at being both diplomatic and direct? Describe a time when you saw them strike this balance well. What did you learn from them?
The best way to identify blind spots and improve yourself is to get candid feedback. Find people that you trust, and ask them to honestly give you feedback on how your overall tone, posture, and intonation affects your conversations. Ask them for detailed examples so you can become more self-aware of how you are coming across, especially in accountability conversations.
If you find yourself putting off difficult conversations, challenge yourself to take care of them 1st thing in the morning. By tackling it first, you can protect your emotions and make sure your focus is on the conversation, not all the other issues that may pop up throughout the day. For more on this concept, check out the book “Eat the Frog” by Brian Tracy.
Consider how you can create a culture where people are free to be direct. Sometimes a direct person can be misinterpreted simply because their actions do not line up with the company culture. The next time you have a meeting, create opportunities for people to disagree. If no one is willing to disagree, play devil’s advocate and continue encouraging other people to speak their minds. Using the PURRR method discussed above, help your team understand alternative perspectives. Reflect on how having alternative solutions and perspectives strengthened the problem-solving process.