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Verbal Accuracy

Conscious Communication: bringing communication up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above all, intentional.

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Quick Communication Tip

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Verbal Accuracy
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While being strongly inspired to address this subject, I suddenly felt a sense of déjà vu. Indeed I had been down this road before. In fact, Chapter 37 of my book, “Kind Ambition” is called, “Say What You Mean – one thing leads to another,” and rings as true today as it did then. So if I may be so bold as to quote myself, let’s look at an easily implemented improvement to our communication. All it requires is a little extra consciousness.

Words are wonderful double-edged swords. Their specific meanings and their ambiguity are both the joy and bane of our conversations. Wordplay depends on words having shades of meaning or multiple meanings, that we can take in one direction, and then suddenly whip in another. This is the basis of some of my favorite comedy, and unfortunately, it’s also a potential fork in the road when we’re trying to communicate. With every split, we find ourselves knee deep in conflict before we know what happened.

I’ve seen so many interactions that went far too deeply into this kind of conflict, far too quickly. The problem isn’t the conflict itself (when it’s real conflict, and you can process it, the learning far outweighs the discomfort). The problem is when the conflict is unnecessary and doesn’t offer any growth. These conflicts are between entities who aren’t really even in the room, and the issues aren’t directly related to what is actually going on in the here and now.

We all have issues that are often highlighted in language as “hot buttons” or “triggers.” These are the words or phrases that hit the PLAY button on your internal tape recorder, and your tape just starts going. You’re no longer really part of the process: you’re in auto-pilot. Inevitably, your defensive salvo will hit the other person’s trigger, and their tape recorder will go into auto-pilot play as well. Now neither of you are present, neither of you are in dialogue, and you’re reduced to “dueling reactions.”

Imagine that you’re challenged to communicate with someone in a darkened room, not allowed to speak, and the only tool you have is a stick. Most likely outcome? You are each going to be poking each other, not communicating, and probably getting a bit miffed as well.

Say What?
It’s almost a miracle that we communicate as well as we do most of the time, considering how diverse our definitions of words can be. As an exercise, I’ve asked workshop/seminar attendees and even Boards of Directors to think about a dog in their heads. Then we go around the room and describe the dog each of us imagined. Of course we thought of everything from a snarling Rottweiler to a happy Cocker Spaniel. We’re only talking about a three-letter noun. Imagine when we get into abstracts, such as integrity or success. Awareness around this inevitably improves the communication that follows.

Let’s say I want you to be more open with me about your needs, and say, “you need to be more honest with me.” The word honesty is a hot button for you, and you hear, “you’ve been lying to me.” Now you go off into defending that you haven’t been lying, and “how dare I accuse you of something like that!” Now I go into damage control mode because I never meant to call you a liar. We’re off and running on an argument that has nothing to do with the original intent. If I had been more precise with my words about you being “open about your needs” rather than the subtle language shift of absent-mindedly using the word “honesty,” we could have actually had a conversation.

Let’s say a customer complains about an order not being what he asked for. The written work order shows that you didn’t make an error, but he definitely didn’t get what he actually needs. If you say you can “correct” the order, you’ve just told the customer that you made a mistake. That will set a precedent which can become a recurring nightmare. You’ll likely get accused of making mistakes for the rest of this relationship. If you say you can “adjust” the order so that it better meets his needs, you’ve just saved face for everyone, and made service points for your flexibility and responsiveness. Do you see how subtle the word choice is, and how enormous the reaction can be?

The Conscious Communication Approach
Think about your most recent verbal conflict with someone. When did you feel your button(s) being pushed? Was it the words? Was it the tone? Can you remember exactly where the train went off the track?

Think about the earliest instance you can remember having this same kind of conflict. Who was it with? Can you remember the words? Can you see how this set up a “trap” for similar exchanges in other situations? Can you identify and recognize your own “hot buttons” or triggers? Once identified, these triggers will begin to lose their potency, as you see them for what they are in a larger context.

Check in with the person with whom you’re having the conflict. Let them know that you are reacting to the word or phrase they used, (not them) and you need to get more clarification. Did they mean “honest” or “open?” Did they mean “manipulative” or “persuasive?” Did they mean “it’s terrible,” or “I personally didn’t care for it?”

The more you check in and clarify what people really mean, the more you’ll understand where the landmines are buried, and the easier it will be to traverse the conversational landscape without the explosions


Quick Communication Tip

Define Terms
One of the things we skip when we are racing through our lives, is taking the time to define terms because we think it will slow down our conversations.  After all, isn’t the point of a common language to save that step?

Well yes and no.  Thankfully we are not standing at the base of the Tower of Babel, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty of variety in our interpretations of words and statements.  Responsibility, integrity, friendship, even words like “late” or “early” have drastically different meanings to different people.  Define terms in the beginning, and save the hassle of straightening things out later.

Want to learn more about how your communication can hold you back or catapult you forward?  Come visit the web site, or better yet, contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.


Resource Links:

Conscious Communication - the podcast series

KG Stiles: "Conversations that Enlighten and Heal"
Ian Blei on Kind Ambition and the
Integram (TM)

Personal Life Media - "Coaching the Life Coach:"
Communication Excellence (Podcast Snippets)
Communication Excellence (full interview)

Interview Podcast for Evolutionary Radio w/ J. McClain

Kind Ambition -
2nd Edition now available

Got Blog? c
ome visit the Blog.

Character Driven - Ever want to create characters that were so believable, that people forgot they were characters?



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