How Strategic Is Your Communication?

photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

We don’t receive wisdom.

We must discover it for ourselves after a journey 

that no one can take for us or spare us.

Marcel Proust

On the last night of class, Brad (names changed), one of my UCLA Extension students, thanked me for my work. He told me he had looked forward to every class and had learned a lot.  

But then he smiled and said these immortal words: “I still don’t see why I should have to change just to please people, so I’m not going to.”

With that one sentence, Brad graciously, and without realizing, had just assured me that he hadn’t “got” what the class was all about!  

My work is not premised in the belief that we should change so as to please other people.  I’m not in the business of creating “people pleasers.”  

Rather, I’m in the business of showing people how to be smart and strategic communicators.  

Strategy.  

That’s the key word.  

The reason why we communicate is to get our needs met. Communicating is about mutual satisfaction.  

While that’s not always possible – for a host of reasons – that doesn’t mean it’s any less worthwhile a goal.

No one way of communicating fits all scenarios.  

If you talk the same way to every person you deal with, then you’re hitting a one-note and reducing your chances for getting heard and understood.

I learned this the hard way (is there really any other way?) early on in ministry when I was a priest.  

The summer after ordination I worked at a parish on Long Island, N.Y. A few days after arriving, I was assigned the funeral of a long-time parishioner.

I’d never presided at a funeral, so I was nervous when I went to the funeral home for the viewing the night before the service. I didn’t know the deceased or his family, so what could I say to them without sounding like a walking cliché?

The funeral director informed me that the deceased was survived by his three adult daughters. That’s all he told me and I was too inexperienced to ask him any questions.

I entered the viewing room and spotted three blonde-haired women near the casket, who looked like they could have walked off the set of Sex and The City!

I went over to one of the sisters, extended my hand, and in what ended up being a clichéd, somber tone of voice said, “I’m so sorry for your loss; I can’t imagine how hard a time this must be for you all.”  

The woman smiled and with a wave of her hand said, “Thank you, but that’s okay.  Actually, he was a mean s.o.b. and we’re all happy to see him go!”

Well, she put me in my place – and taught me a pivotal lesson.  

I’d gone to the viewing on autopilot and didn’t strategize. I presumed that because it was a funeral, and the people I directly was dealing with were family, that my goal was to comfort them. But, they didn’t want my sympathy and didn’t need my comfort.  

I learned that just because a certain context calls for a presumed emotion, that doesn’t mean the person(s) involved is going to be feeling that specific way.  

All effective communication is about strategizing, which means it’s important to consider these three questions: 

  • Who’s involved?  
  • What’s the context?  
  • What’s my goal?  

Answer these questions and you can then strategize how you’re going to approach someone.

This is true in our personal lives and equally true in business where the stakes are high.  

Therefore, your primary goal isn’t to please people.

Rather, it’s to create a mutually satisfying (i.e. beneficial) relationship.

That’s done by figuring out how to communicate with the other person in a way that makes it as easy as possible for her or for him to hear and understand you.  

Only then can our goals have the chance to be mutually satisfied.

now THAT is the business of confidence!

Do you want to be more strategic in your communicating –

so as to develop and nurture successful professional relationships?

To explore how communication skills coaching can help you

present you with enhanced confidence – and joy 

please contact me

  JP@thebusinessofconfidence.com

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