The Limitations of Communication

hammer-682767_1280Of course I am a communication geek, but even I have to admit that it has its limitations in relationships.

Communication is indeed a tool, but it is not a key, sledgehammer, leash, crowbar, or magic wand.

In other words, it is not a way to control people’s behavior.

So what CAN communication do? No more and no less than act as a flashing light to draw attention to an issue.

If we are thoughtful and respectful about our communication, it’s more likely that the other party will be open to receiving the signals we send.

The recipient of our communication is the only one who determines how to (or whether to) respond to our message.

So do your best to be kind and clear in your communication, and please realize that no matter how nicely you ask, the other person may still decide not to grant your request!

This means you must be prepared to back up your communication with action. If you ask your child very nicely to stop drawing on the walls and she doesn’t, you’ll have to either take the crayons away or produce some paper for her to draw on.

If you ask your spouse warmly and respectfully to have only one glass of wine so he can drive you home from the party but he drinks four, you’ll need to figure out an alternate mode of safe transportation.

If you ask your employee kindly but firmly to get the report to you by Thursday, and still don’t have it in hand at the end of the day on Friday, you’ll need to start making alternate plans for future reports as well as for your employee.

Even the most skillful communication does not have the power to control others. We each decide for ourselves which actions to take.

The Limitations of Communication2016-11-23T09:38:47-06:00

Five Powerful Words To Reset Your Relationship

Without further ado, here they are:Goldfish Kissing

Thank you for loving me.

When spoken with passion and sincerity, this sentiment can be tremendously heart-opening for both the speaker and the receiver.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it and see.

Five Powerful Words To Reset Your Relationship2016-11-23T09:38:47-06:00

Did you know this about BCC?

Frustrated Woman at Computer With Stack of PaperBCC is the feature in email that allows you to send a copy to someone without revealing their email address to the other recipients. It stands for Blind Carbon Copy. I always thought it was a great way to inform a large group of people about an upcoming training or something like that while protecting their privacy.

UNTIL …

I received an email the other day that was addressed only to me. I replied and went about my day. Within a few hours, I received three or four other replies from people I did not know had also gotten this email. Apparently we were all BCC’d, and if you “Reply All” to a BCC, your reply goes to all the recipients, and you may not even know it.

Let’s say you BCC your supervisor on an email to a staff member about a missed deadline, to keep her in the loop and document your action. If she happens to accidentally hit “Reply All” when she writes back to advise you about your next steps, she’s not only in the loop, she is in the conversation, and this could have many unintended consequences for everyone involved.

Or let’s say you BCC your attorney when replying to a particularly nasty email from your ex. If your attorney inadvertently hits “Reply All”, your ex will get it too!

SO …

Don’t use BCC for sensitive communications. It is not private! If you want to keep people in the loop, forward your sent email to them separately and individually, and let them know it’s for their information or to document the communication.

Did you know this about BCC?2016-11-23T09:38:47-06:00

How to Begin a Difficult Conversation

danger thin iceYou’ve thought about what you want to say, and are clear about how to say it. But how do you begin? Try this simple but powerful question:

Is this a good time to talk?

This puts the other person on notice that something important is up for discussion. If they say it’s not a good time, please don’t push. They might be crabby, hungry, tired, or simply not in a receptive or productive frame of mind at that moment. Which means the conversation is not likely to go well anyway.

So hold your tongue, and ask them when would be a better time. If you were burning to talk right then and are worried you’ll forget what you wanted to say, jot it down and save it for later.

How to Begin a Difficult Conversation2016-11-23T09:38:47-06:00

How to Call Forth the Best in People

I have found the best way to get another to acquire a virtue is to impute it to him.” – Winston Churchillcamera lens

Another way to say that is: When you see and appreciate the best in people, and they want to live up to it.

Constructive criticism such as, “I did not appreciate the way you spoke to me in front of our friends, and I want you to be more polite in the future,” rarely leads to improvement.

Instead, try something like this: “Thanks for noticing that I was becoming embarrassed during our interaction in front of our friends. I appreciate that you went along with it when I changed the subject. Now that we are in private, is there more you want to discuss?”

How to Call Forth the Best in People2016-11-23T09:38:47-06:00

How to Make the Most of Criticism

Close-up of magnifying glass focusing on two peopleInstead of deflecting a critical comment by counter-attacking, blaming, or pointing out the flaws of the one who leveled it at you, try using it as a starting point for introspection.

In the moment, you can say, “Thanks for sharing that with me. I will give it some consideration.”

Then, at your earliest convenience, do exactly that by asking yourself, “In what ways could this criticism of me be true?”

There’s very little anyone can accuse you of that won’t have at least a grain of truth to it.

And when you can identify that grain, tiny though it may be, you will also have found an opportunity.

Because once you see it, you can either work to change it or work to accept it and minimize the harm you cause to others because of it.

Who knows —  someday you might even find yourself actively seeking and welcoming criticism because of the empowering insights it reveals!

How to Make the Most of Criticism2016-11-23T09:38:47-06:00

Don’t Talk About Your Partner This Way

Construction Worker TripletsIt’s pretty obvious that the way you talk to your partner has a huge impact on the quality of your relationship.

But did you know that the way you speak about your partner can also damage or support the health of your relationship?

Consider these common statements:

My wife would never let me use my vacation days on a guy’s trip.

My husband wouldn’t allow me to wear something like that in public.

Each contains the implication that the speaker is not in control of his or her own choices and behavior. And that’s simply not true.

Speaking about your partner using this language puts you in a subservient, disempowered position, which is fertile breeding ground for rage, resentment, and hostility — toxic emotions that seriously threaten the health and stability of your partnership.

For contrast, see how these feel:

My wife would really like to take a family trip later this year, and I’ve decided to save my vacation time for that.

My husband would feel embarrased if I wore something like that in public, so I chose this dress instead.

This is much more in alignment with the truth. Your partner likely has preferences, and you are free to consider or disregard those preferences while deciding your course of action.

True, there might be some potentially unpleasant reactions from your partner that factor in to your decision — some people have a harder time than others coping with a partner’s disapproval or disappointment.

But even if you decide not to go on that guys’ trip or wear that dress based on your partner’s preference, it’s still your choice to make. And using language that takes full responsibility for your decisions fosters strong, healthy relationships.

Don’t Talk About Your Partner This Way2016-11-23T09:38:47-06:00

How to Find Out What Happened at School Today

I see youWant to hear about your child’s day at school?

Questions like, “Did you have a good day today?” or, “Did anything interesting happen today?” are likely to result in a simple yes or no answer.

Instead, try asking open questions — questions that cannot be answered with yes or no — like this:

“What interesting things happened today?”

or

“What was the funniest thing that happened today?”

Ask one of these questions, and then sit back, relax, and listen. Respond to your child’s answer with something minimal, like “Really!” or, “No kidding!” and then be quiet again. Your engaged, attentive silence will encourage your child to elaborate.

ps:  Many parents find that a hearty snack is a very effective way to grease the wheels of after-school conversation. If you happen to be around when they arrive home, try sitting down and sharing a mini-meal with your children.

How to Find Out What Happened at School Today2016-11-23T09:38:48-06:00

Don’t Make This Mistake During Your Mediation Session

MP900443187During high conflict divorce or joint custody mediations, it can be tempting to point out how unreasonable, wrong, misguided or irrational the other parent is being.

The risk of doing so is two-fold:

One, the mediator (who in some cases may be the person who ends up making decisions about your parenting schedule if you enter arbitration) may perceive you as frantic, neurotic or hyper-critical, even if you aren’t usually any of those things in regular life.

And two, every minute you spend talking about how unreasonable the other parent is would be much better spent being spectacularly respectful and reasonable yourself. His/her unreasonableness will then reveal itself in contrast to your well-thought-out and respectfully communicated position. You won’t need to point it out.

So don’t waste precious time and energy trying to expose the other party’s flaws or issues – instead keep the spotlight on your own strengths, including compassion, generosity, acceptance/tolerance of differences, and grounded, centered communication skills.

And if you find yourself getting upset, aggressive, or defensive, ask for a bathroom break and use it to compose yourself. Call/text a friend, do some deep breathing, say a prayer — whatever brings you back to center and your heart.

Coming to the table as your best self is one of the most powerful and influential actions you can take during a mediation session.

Don’t Make This Mistake During Your Mediation Session2016-11-23T09:38:48-06:00

How to Increase the Odds that Customers Will Open Your Emails

you have mailIf you want to increase the probability that email from your business will be opened, make sure that every single email comes from your business name rather than the name or department of the employee who sent it.

So if Gidget Smith works for Acme Widgets in the customer service dept, her email responding to my inquiry should show up in my inbox as coming from Acme Widgets, not from Gidget Smith or Customer Service.

Many people delete emails from senders they don’t recognize. Don’t expect your customers to keep track of the names of your employees, even if you’ve had the same staff for years.

To see how your business emails are showing up in your customer’s inboxes, ask each of your employees to send you an email as if you were a customer, and take a look at what’s in the From: field. Then make sure it’s consistent company-wide.

How to Increase the Odds that Customers Will Open Your Emails2016-11-23T09:38:48-06:00