At a recent workshop for “Practical and professional skills for marketing and business development assistants” http://www.pmforum.co.uk/training/index.aspx I asked the participants for their views on the most important practical tips that they were taking away.
They picked two – one might argue obvious – techniques to help them improve their communications with partners (and clients) and increase buy-in to projects.
Find Face-time – In a high-pressured environment, where there are never enough hours in a day, where attention spans are short, where everyone wants everything faster, where email inboxes overflow and social media remains seductive and addictive, it’s easy to resort to screen based communications.
But we all know that “discussions”, persuasion and negotiation are much better and faster when they are face-to-face. And you really need some face-time up front to establish a strong foundation for a relationship that can then be nurtured online. So step away from the screen.
You don’t need a formal meeting. Take a little time to wander around and actually talk to people – face-to-face. How much quicker and more efficient is it to have a five minute conversation to agree something than a 30 email exchange that gets you nowhere?
Yep, it’s harder in a network or international environment. But then there’s technology (including Skype and Facetime apps) to facilitate face-time over the Internet. Dialogue not monologue please.
Reframing – Our minds our powerful machines. If we label someone as ”difficult” or “unco-operative” then our internal mental model will ensure that we only ever receive information that confirms our hypothesis.
So our initial view is confirmed and contrary information (that the person might actually have a point) is not received. We become closed to new ideas. We avoid conflicting information as cognitive dissonance occurs when our mental model is challenged. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. And conflict can then occur.
Assume instead that everyone is working from a positive intent. Question how you have labelled or “framed” the person and how you subsequently interpret their behaviour. Consider reframing them as “creative” or “focused” or in a more positive way and you can then approach them and communicate with a more open mind, to find some common ground rather than to lock horns.
Changing ourselves and the way we think is also easier than changing others. And if we behave differently, we will invoke a different response.