Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Few Advanced Communication Techniques

I'm writing a book called, How to Do Life. Here's an advance look at a few of the book's many tips on communication.

Early on, be just mildly nice. Make them earn your niceness. They'll value you more. Corollary: An occasional glare may have more influence than a smile.

Be in the sweet-spot of enthusiasm. Don't be too flat, of course, but don't be too enthusiastic or you'll sound desperate or out of control. Remember when Howard Dean was the leading candidate for the 2004 presidency until, in his speech after the Iowa primary, he yelled what seemed like a war whoop. That single moment took him out of the running.

Consciously decide how much to bolster your conversation partner's self-esteem. Usually, it's wise to say things that preserve or boost your conversation partner's self-esteem.

But occasionally, it's more effective to shake a person up, even deliberately showing controlled anger. For example, if a coworker is habitually lazy yet complacent, it may, in the right circumstance be wise to firmly, with a hint of anger say, "Would you mind if I give you some candid feedback?" They'll usually say yes. Then say,

"I'm feeling increasingly frustrated that you're not holding up your end. I'm having to cover for you and even when I'm, not, the quality and quantity of work getting done just isn't good. I don't want a response now. I just want you to think about it. Come talk with me tomorrow. "
Caution: Showing unbridled anger will be less likely to get the person to consider your feedback and more likely to just write you off as a hothead.

Be low-maintenance. In today's ever more pressured workplace, it is critical that you're seen as low-maintenance. Here are a couple of non-obvious ways to be so:

Think twice before offering unasked-for suggestions. Why might that make you seem high-maintenance? Even if your suggestion is good, your overwhelmed boss doesn't want to take on any more and so may feel guilty or embarrassed if he doesn't do it. Or if he does do it, you've added to his overwhelm. The best question you can ask a boss: "Is there anything I can do for you?" Be the antidote to a boss being overwhelmed.

Tone down your "I'm offended" antenna. Be sure that your being slighted isn't a slight that's too slight to insist that you need to "process your feelings" about it.


marcia said...

First of all Howard Dean did not run for President in 2008. He was Chairman of the DNC in 2008. He ran for President in 2004. He did not win in Iowa. He came in third behind John Kerry and John Edwards. The so called whoop was an attempt to cheer up a crowd of 2,000 supporters who were yelling so loud that no one in the room could hear Dean. Only the TV audience could hear him list the states he still intended to campaign in, because he was given a directional microphone that filtered out all sounds other than his voice. it was assassination by media.

Marty Nemko said...

Thank you, Marcia, I'll correct the factual error. But the point remains valid. What was perceived by the public as a single instance of excessive exuberance was enough to derail his candidacy.

And certainly, the media has inordinate power. It's dangerous.

charles said...

Marty, i like your instruction here; would it come under the rubric restrained circumspection? I like it; i'm tired of people generally. I'm tired of being nice to them, tired of their ignorance, their stupidity, their religiosity, their right-wing capitalist non-sence. I'm sick to death of people. Would that I could take my cat, my laboratory, and my two volume set of Aristotle by Barns to a remote island and kiss this lamentable world good bye. People are nothing but a littany of pain, a cavelcade of mean betraying fools and misfits. If I didn't have Aristotle to curl up with, I would surely perish from the lonlieness of the crowd.

I like what you have to say.

Spell check for me, if I might ask you to be so kind.


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