All Posts in Category: Communication


As a child you probably heard and maybe even said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” That statement would probably be near the top of any list of childhood myths because the pain from hurtful words and phrases can be “felt” long after the pain from a stick or stone is gone.

Perhaps your life was shaped early on when you heard words and phrases from someone you loved such as, “You’re lazy…stupid…clumsy…(fill in the blanks). Or, “You’ll never amount to anything.” Perhaps you have some frayed relationships because of poor word choice either by you or the other person.

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The most important component in selling is the ability to ask questions.

When asking questions, if you focus on finding the best way to serve your customer, you will intuitively ask the right questions.

You sell yourself by asking questions and showing an interest in your customer.

People like you because of the way you make them feel about themselves.

The only way to find out what the customer is thinking is to ask instead of to tell.

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Have you noticed that most people think they are better communicators than they really are? As a result, deadlines are missed, productivity suffers, mistakes are made, feelings get hurt, tempers flare, customers leave, and profits sag.

With more messages than ever before flying at us from all directions, even being a good communicator isn’t good enough these days. The gap between being a good communicator and being a great communicator can be huge. How would your business and life be better if you and everyone you interacted with improved their communication from good to great?

Effective communication is more than keeping people informed; it requires that people respond to your ideas, direction, and leadership. People respond to us by how we look (our demeanor and expression more than our physical appearance), how we act, what we say, and how we say it. The good news is we have total control over how we look, how we act, what we say, and how we say it. That means we have total control over our side of any communication. Since people respond to these four factors, and we have total control over them, the better we communicate the better chance we have of getting people to respond to our ideas, direction, and leadership. Listed below are seven ways you can improve your communication ability:

  1. Choose your words and phrasing carefully (what you say). Words are powerful. They can build up or tear down; encourage or discourage; clarify or confuse; motivate or de-motivate. Choose simple, easy to understand words that clarify, build up, encourage and motivate. Instead of “should have” (judgmental), say “next time;” instead of “have to” (parental) say, “get to” or “it’s important…;” instead of “always” or “never” use specific occurrences. Phrases such as “I believe in you,” “I appreciate you,” “tell me about it,” and “thank you” are powerful and get people to respond to you in a positive manner.
  2. Choose tone and inflection carefully (how you say it). “WHAT…. WERE… YOU… THINKING!?” will illicit a different response than “What happened?” or “Tell me about it.” Tone and inflection can help you emphasize key points. Improper use can also trigger negative emotions. People will remember how you made them feel (positive or negative) long after they forget the words you used.
  3. Choose facial expressions and body language that are congruent with your message (how you look and how you act). People will put credence in what they see over what they hear. Make eye contact. Stay in the moment (avoid looking at your watch, checking your pda, or otherwise disrespecting the other person). Avoid posture or gestures that might indicate you’d rather be somewhere else.
  4. Choose to listen purposely and actively with your eyes as well as your ears. Eliminate or reduce distractions, take notes, ask questions, paraphrase for understanding, and do anything else to insure you fully understand what the other person is saying, needs, and means. Listen to word choice, phrasing, and what the person is not saying as well as what he or she is saying. Your eyes can help by reading facial expressions and body language. My granddaughter (who is three) can read facial expressions and body language – and she’s never attended a body language course. If she can do it, you can too.
  5. Choose to communicate with integrity. I believe the truth will find you out and if you haven’t been truthful your credibility will be damaged. Besides, it is easier to tell the truth because you don’t have to remember what you said. When you communicate with integrity, you will feel better about yourself and be more effective in every area of your business and life.
  6. Choose to be a positive, enthusiastic communicator. Positive, enthusiastic people attract people and negative, dull people have a tendency to repel people. Choose to be the former.
  7. Choose to ask better questions to get better answers. When you are clear on your goal for a given communication, situation, or person, you will have a tendency to ask better questions and get better answers. Plan your questions in advance and/or have an arsenal of questions that you’ve found to be effective in given situations.

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Thoughts on Communication

  1. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate. Gerald Ford
  1. Communication is the glue that holds relationships together. It is the chief means by which people relate to one another.
  1. Communication, like nature, abhors a vacuum. In the absence of communication, people will create their own messages, typically in the form of rumor, innuendo, and gossip.
  1. The void created by the failure to communicate is soon filled with poison, drivel, and misrepresentation. Northcote Parkinson
  1. People get used to poor communication and accept it as a natural part of life.
  1. Most, if not all, people think they are better communicators than they really are.
  1. The biggest miscommunication is to assume communication has taken place.
  1. When communication is done correctly, people will be inspired to follow, and in the process will achieve inspired results for themselves, for the leader, and for the organization.
  1. Most conflicts and controversies are caused by people not understanding one another.
  1. The moment people see that they are being understood, they become motivated to understand your point of view.
  1. Everybody wants to feel important. Everybody can feel important when somebody understands and believes them. It doesn’t take much effort to help people feel important. Little things, done deliberately, at the right time, can make a big difference.
  1. Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk. Doug Larson
  1. One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears — by listening to them. Dean Rusk
  1. The answers are in the questions.
  1. People’s opinions, thoughts, and desires are often molded by the questions they are asked. Kevin Hogan
  1. I’d rather know some of the questions than all of the answers. James Thurber
  1. When you talk you only say something that you already know. When you listen, you learn what someone else knows.
  1. One of the key principles of business management is that words of encouragement or discouragement affect production. Leaders have great power to encourage and build up or destroy, discourage, and debilitate their followers with words.
  1. If you want to change what people are doing, you have to change what they are thinking. To change what they are thinking, you have to change what you are saying and, perhaps, how you are saying it.

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Let people know the impact of their actions. Make sure the impact is relative to them, not you.

Avoid E-mail when dealing with people problems. You will lose the effectiveness of tone, inflection, facial expression, and body language; plus, your message or intent might be misinterpreted without the advantage of a dialogue. Try to deal with the issue face to face. If that isn’t practical, do it by phone.

The severity of the problem might dictate the time needed, but in most cases be direct and keep it brief.

Avoid showing anger. It is okay to show or express disappointment; or, to explain the gravity of the situation with intensity; but, getting angry will create unnecessary tension that could shut down communication and cause resistance to change.

Get the team member to set a goal to correct the problem behavior. Set a follow-up date to review progress on the goal.

Resist the temptation to raise your voice. Keep it at a normal level or slightly lower. This will help keep emotions in check and encourage the team member to listen.

Describe your expectations for acceptable performance, behavior, or results in specific terms. Do not “sugar coat” or “beat around the bush.” Get agreement or acknowledgement that the team member understands your expectations. Get the team member to tell you, in his or her own words, what your expectations are. A nod or passive approval is not enough when you are dealing with a serious problem.

Get agreement that the current behavior is not meeting expectations and is unacceptable.


  • Get the facts. Do not rely on rumor or innuendo.
  • Know enough about the person to predict his or her responses.
  • Write bullet points about what you will say in what order.
  • Choose an appropriate location that is private.

ASAP – when you become aware of a problem and have the facts, the best time to act is as soon as possible. Waiting will not make the situation better and it probably won’t go away. If the temperature gauge in your car enters the danger zone and a hissing noise is coming from under the hood, delaying attention will not be very pleasant. Likewise, delaying attention to problem behavior can be damaging to you and your entire team.

When challenged, the best strategy is to avoid over-reacting. Listen carefully and let the person vent. Venting to a good listener will usually make the other person more receptive to changing and taking corrective action.

Avoid offering your personal opinion; keep the discussion business-based.

When there are multiple issues, focus on one at a time to prevent overwhelming or confusing the team member.

Document the conversation. This will make it easier to follow up and reduce the possibility that something was misconstrued.

Be open to the possibility that this problem employee’s behavior is a symptom of a larger problem within your team. Perhaps this person is in the wrong role; there are poor working conditions or a hostile working environment; or, there is a personality conflict with another team member.

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Improving Performance with Clear Expectations

Giving specific, appropriate feedback is the quickest, cheapest, and most effective intervention for improving performance. Clarifying expectations is the first step in a coach’s ability to give specific, appropriate feedback.

When people have to guess what they are supposed to do it creates tension and they won’t do their best work. Avoid telling people to “do their best”. What does “do your best”mean? What does “try harder” mean? What does a “comprehensive report” look like?

Sometimes workers know they are doing things they should not be doing, but they don’t realize it is a problem.To avoid this, ask employees:

  • How do you know when you are doing a good or bad job?
  • How do you measure the quality of your performance?
  • How do you know when you do something wrong?
  • Describe what good performance looks like.
  • Describe what bad performance looks like.

When people clearly understand what is expected of them, it reduces the relationship tension and improves their ability to perform up to the coach’s expectations.

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Avoiding Miscommunications

The biggest mis communication is to assume communication has taken place. How many times have you been disappointed by someone you thought you communicated with, only to find out they were on a different page than you? This happens tens of thousands of times every day in business and personal relationships.

We can reduce mis communications, missed expectations, frustration, confusion, disappointment, anger, and many other emotions by keeping the following things in mind when we are attempting to communicate:

1. Know what your goal is. What do you want the other person to know, think, or do?

2. Choose your words carefully. If possible, practice what you will say and/or write out what you want to say. Use words and language at the recipient’s level.

3. Use the proper tone and inflection. Emphasizing different words in a sentence can dramatically change the way your message is perceived.

4. Make certain your body language and facial expressions are congruent with your message. People believe what they see over what they hear.

5. Observe the body language and facial expressions of the other person. If the other person’s body language or facial expression isn’t congruent with the message you are sending, stop and ask a question that will get you both on the same wave length.

6. Pace yourself to the mental speed of your listener. You can usually tell how fast a person thinks by how fast he or she talks. If you go too slow or too fast, the other person might get impatient, confused, or frustrated.

7. Actively ask for feedback. For example, “So we can be sure we are communicating effectively, would you tell me your understanding of what we just discussed? ”If you are on the same page or wave length, move on. If not, clarify and discuss until you are. Avoid questions such as: “Do you understand?” or “Have I made myself clear?” Such closed-end questions can cause your listener to give you a tacit yes and, worse yet, feel that you think he or she is stupid, which can lead to shutting down communication.

8. Control the environment as much as possible. If there is a lot of noise, or other
distractions, move to a quieter location with fewer distractions.

9. Ask questions until you get to the heart of the matter or accomplish your goal. Mix statements with your questions. People are good at answering questions. Also, a question can be perceived as threatening and can intimidate. Sometimes you can elicit information better with a statement than you can a question. A statement opens the door to the other person’s reply. A statement does not require a reply, whereas a question does. For example, you can make a statement such as,“You are probably wondering about a number of things that are involved with these changes we are discussing”.Even if the other person responds with a simple, “Yes”,resist the temptation to speak.Use silence to give the other person the inclination to tell you what he or she is really thinking. Knowing what the other person is thinking is the first step in avoiding mis-communications

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10 Commandments of Communication

1. Develop trust. It’s not automatically given; it must be earned.

2. Openly communicate more than you have to or need to. Make it your top priority.

3. Be as specific as possible in the words and phrases you use.

4. Supply whatever background information and reasons people need to understand changes.

5. Be absolutely honest with all employees.

6. Actively share information and feelings.

7. Talk to an employee as one adult to another (the way you would like your boss to talk with you).

8. Always solicit employee ideas, suggestions, and reactions.

9. Follow through, always — no exceptions.

10. Recognize the job of a manager is to remove roadblocks, irritants, and frustrations — not put them there.

Building a Winning Team

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