Your colleague cancelled a meeting, your client ghosted you, your prospect didn’t return your email, an overly emotional private email has gone viral, and your weekly meetings are all over the place.
Stacked up over time, these occurrences can make you resent others and doubt yourself. Here are three things to stop doing so that you can take charge of your communication.
1. Stop over relying on digital communications
Emails, texts and direct messages are great for quick updates, confirming appointments, or sharing a couple of facts. These same methods are dangerous when discussing performance reviews, private issues, or potentially emotional topics.
What holds you back: You are attached to one form of communication. You avoid the discomfort of a phone, or you refuse to text, (depending on your bias and your age.) Stop holding yourself back and become competent in all forms of communication including text, phone, video conferencing, emailing, one to one communications and one to group meetings.
What to do: The rule of thumb is when emotions are high, when the issue is private, or when the situation is complicated, meet face to face, by ZOOM or by phone.
2. Don’t believe everything you think
Just because someone didn’t answer your email doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. Just because someone declined one meeting doesn’t mean they declined a whole year’s worth. It’s easy to jump to conclusions.
What holds you back: You fear confrontation, rejection, or emotional escalation. What also holds you back is the need to be right about how you see the situation. You’d rather gossip with others and ask “what do you think” than to address the one person who can help you–the one with whom you have the issue.
What to do: When you find yourself feeling angry or resentful take that as a sign that you need more information or clarification. Take it upon yourself to make a phone call, or leave a message.
3. Stop Avoiding the Elephant in the Room
If there’s something not working you can feel it. If something’s bothering you it’s probably bothering other people too. For example, your highest performer is also a bully. Or your ideas are not recognized at a meeting because the facilitator lets others hog the conversation.
What holds you back: You want to be liked and bringing the issue to light will put a spotlight on you. You’ll be judged as being too sensitive, or negative, or a micromanager. You don’t want to initiate a difficult conversation.
What to do: Speak about the observed behavior, and ask for what you want. For example, “I have noticed that sometimes others don’t get the same time allotment at meetings. I’d like to facilitate one of the meetings and see if I can give everyone the same amount of time. At the meeting you can say, “James, I appreciate your input, but before we go further I’d like to hear from the others too.”
Good communication is not only an external skill set, but an internal game. To be a competent leader you must become competent in all forms of communication, from email, to text, to phone, to video conferencing. You just master your thoughts so that you catch unproductive narratives, and you must stop avoiding and start leading.