Communicate to Break Down Barriers

A puppy now lives with my partner and I. This is an exciting, while challenging time! What we’re quickly noticing is how Star, this young pup, takes on the energy and attitude we give her. So if we want to spend our time correcting and disciplining – which of course, we don’t, we don’t think twice about our reactions or tone of voice.

Instead, what we want is a pleasant time together. So not unlike what any executive, partner or associate in an office environment wants or needs, there are ways of communicating to break down communication barriers to keep folks engaged and our time together productive. Because the Stars around us are just as transformable by our communication behaviors as puppies are in our homes.

3 tips to practice

  1. Neutralize negative emotion. One of the times it is hardest to communicate is when we don’t like what we need to say. Having difficult conversations with clients, co-workers or others creates tension not just for us. It hugely impacts listeners as well. What I have learned works best for Star is to be matter-of-fact when she chews on my shoe and then give her a better object to chew on. In the case of co-workers or clients, being matter-of-fact helps us find out more information, to get to the point and to avoid shut-down. Otherwise, we take things personally and don’t drill down to uncover needed information. Additionally, if we are afraid to say things for fear our listeners don’t want to hear them, it shows. Telling Star, “no”, can make me fear she will bite me. Same with people. We still need to way what needs to be said. Neutralizing our emotion and keeping it about fact helps us get to what is important.
  2.  Look at the big picture. Little things can get in the way of our seeing things from a distance. I know Star will be teething for a few more months, so it shouldn’t surprise me she wants to chew on things. Instead, I need to be ready to provide her with options. Does your co-worker understand the importance, the stress or the complications with the project you’re working on? When it comes to communicating with them, keep in mind their perspective. Then help them relate to what you want them to know. The big picture helps us all deal with the small problems and then, reminds us that yes, they are simply small problems.
  3. Regularly have conversation, even when it’s difficult. All of us needs to know we are important. While walking Star, I find that she avoids chewing on her leash if I keep talking to her and even providing her with sticks to put in her mouth. I’m thinking of her. She actually notices! Even if I’ve just corrected her behavior, I must not give up. I need to constantly reassure her. With people, the same applies. Even though we have had a difficult exchange, it’s important to follow up with something unrelated so our listener knows we haven’t just driven a wedge into the relationship based on one interaction. It’s key to renew communication, especially when it has been difficult.

When communication works in the office, just like in the home, it has a stronger likelihood it will work outside the office. Keep these tips in practice not just to maintain good relationship. Keep them in practice so they become habits you use elsewhere!

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On October 14th, 2015, posted in: attorneys, behavior, communication, communication coach, law student by