I haven’t known a company yet where employees didn’t complain about a lack of communication. It isn’t that there is silence going on. To the contrary. People talk to each other all the time at work. The words are floating out there, but we don’t truly connect to each other’s meaning.
So many words are wasted at work because you assume that everyone else shares your assumptions about what you said. Really communicating – at work or at home – involves aligning your own expectations and assumptions with the assumptions of others. Based on our assumptions, Judith Glaser in her work, identified three types or levels of conversations:
Transactional – These tell/ask conversations are the most superficial of all conversations. They are an exchange of simply factual information. You share what you know and seek to bring your facts into alignment with facts that others have. For example, “I have a dentist appointment today at 2:00 and will leave the office early.”
Positional – This type of conversation is about advocating/inquiring and happens when you inform others of where you stand on an issue and seek to persuade them to seeing things your way. Problems occur when we cling to our own perspective, needing to be right, instead of showing a willingness to adjust our information based on what we hear from others.
Co-Creative – In these conversations, you and others explore a topic through sharing/discovering and remain connected to each other as you move through the topic together. The point of these conversations is to be open to information you don’t know and to be open to the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know.
“We live in historical conversations . . .
and live our assumptions as though they were true.”
– Julio Garreaud, Human Architect
Within these conversations, you make statements and ask questions using the following linguistic distinctions:
Assessment – an opinion based on your perspective, beliefs, and assumptions.
Assertion – a statement based on your expertise in a certain subject matter
Request – a stated desire that includes what you want, by when (date/time)
Promise – a YES/NO/MAYBE response to a request, indicating whether or not you will fulfill the request as stated, renegotiate the terms of the request, or revoke an earlier promise due to changing circumstances
Declaration – a statement based on authority/power
Offer – an unsolicited promise made without getting a specific request in advance.
Of all the linguistic distinctions, requests and promises are critical for coordinating action because they drive results. The trick is to ensure you make your request explicit enough so that someone else knows what you want and how they can successfully give it to you.
In meetings, for example, the key is to share enough information about a situation, so the people involved can make specific requests about what they need, and others can make informed promises to fill those needs. When you request “an executive summary on the ABC issues by Thursday at 3:00 p.m.”, others know whether or not they are capable of promising to do so.
When you are skilled at knowing which type of conversation to have to serve your purpose along with the specific linguistic distinctions you can use to craft your conversations, your company or work group can become a symphony of communication that results in harmonious action.
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.