Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

7 deadly sins of communication–part 3

Friday, October 16th, 2015

This the third in the series exploring our bad habits in communication. 

Nagging is when you keep on and on at someone to do something.  By definition, if you have asked the same person for the same thing  multiple times they either aren’t getting the message or aren’t receptive to it.  You have to try something new.  Find out why they aren’t doing it, are they unwilling or unable to help?  If they are unwilling, maybe you need to put your case in a way that makes it clear what they get from helping you.  If they are unable, then what can you do to help?  A lot depends on the power balance.  If you are talking to a boss, a colleague / friend  or a subordinate / child.  You have to adjust you strategy accordingly.  We are all familiar with the fact that it gets easier to ignore someone when they keep banging on about the same old thing…

Threatening and punishing can have their place, but really need to only be used as a last resort, and only when we intend to follow through.  They seldom have a positive impact on a relationship, so unless it is terminal, it is usually better to use them sparingly and again when it is done in such a way that after the event, they will understand the necessity.  Bribery to gain control is really just the other side of this coin and equally ineffective.  Think about it, if you reward your child in order to get them to stop screaming, what message do they take away?  When I scream, I get what I want… do why wouldn’t they repeat this lesson? 

Good luck!


7 deadly sins of communication – part 1

7 deadly sins of communication – part 2


7 deadly sins of communication–part 2

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

When we blame someone (or something) we are seeking to explain or excuse a failure.  Now there is a time and place for analysing what went wrong and who was responsible but usually we do this we are seeking to distance ourselves from what has gone wrong.  Again, it is all about the intention.  It is seldom that it is all down to a single person.  If they work for us, are we monitoring them properly?  Have we given them appropriate support and resources?  Should we have known earlier and acted ourselves?  “Let him who is without sin…” and all that!  If we are acting in a timely way, and seeking to avoid a problem, then it is more effective to focus on what can be done to avoid it or correct it.  Analysis and what can be done better and how to avoid further repetitions happen after in a cool, calm place.

Complaining can take a number of forms:-

  1. Venting:  which we all do from time to time but serves little useful purpose, but is damaging when done too often or too long.
  2. Active, effective complaining:  this is when you are explaining what is wrong, and what you would like done about it calmly to the person who is in a position to put it right, and
  3. Ineffective complaining:  this is similar to venting and serves little purpose as you are failing to be clear or addressing the wrong person. 

If our complaints are intermingled with blame, then they usually feel like an attack and once more we tend to get either meaningless apologies or or defence and justifications; either way we are not motivating the person to address our issue.

More tomorrow…




7 deadly sins of communication–part 1

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

A psychiatrist named William Glasser identified seven habits that damage and undermine effective communication.  They each have a positive counterpart, the things we can do to promote good, healthy communication and relationships.  They are:-

Negative Habits Positive Behaviours
  • Criticising
  • Supporting
  • Blaming
  • Encouraging
  • Complaining
  • Listening
  • Nagging
  • Accepting
  • Threatening
  • Trusting
  • Punishing
  • Respecting
  • Bribing (or rewarding to control)
  • Negotiating differences

I think this list is pretty useful and self explanatory on its own, but it maybe helpful to explore it a little further.  No one likes to be on the receiving end of the first list, and most of us would deny doing it to others.  I suspect our intentions may often be positive, but under stress, our behaviours can let us down and what emerges either is, or feels like, these negative things.

You may feel it is either justified or needful to point out what is wrong with something or someone.  However, the key is not only how you do that that but also in your intentions behind this.  If you do so to hurt them (perhaps because you feel they hurt you), because you are frustrated, stressed or angry, or simply to make yourself feel better than them, then it will always come over as negative and as soon as they feel this, they then will only either block out what you are saying or defend against it.  Not only do your intentions have to be positive, but your language must also signal and reinforce this.

I will further explore this over the following days, so stay tuned…

Not quite the 9 o’clock News

Monday, October 14th, 2013

bbc_signer2I’m interested in all aspects of communication but this story really takes some beating.  Leslie Grange, a signer for deaf viewers on the BBC news, appears to have decided that merely reporting the news was a little dull, so to brighten the days of her deaf viewers she started spicing up the stories.  Here are a few examples:-

“Questions started to be raised around the time of the Japanese earthquake when several viewers emailed us to complain about our reports of radioactive zombies sighted near the nuclear reactor. We dismissed them as some sort of organised hoax.”

“However, when there were similar numbers getting in touch to ask if Rebekah Brooks was really in trouble for raping a monkey, and why the BBC was claiming that, as a special summer treat, the Prime Minister had told the nation’s teenagers they didn’t have to pay for anything any more, we realised something was wrong.”

“I would like to apologise to everyone in the deaf community,” Grange told reporters today, “though when I had Cameron tell Obama “your statesmen-like profile leaves my willy plump” – well, frankly I don’t think that is so very far from the truth.”

We tend to accept that information coming from authoritative sources is correct and accurate, and it is only once it crosses a certain threshold that we question it, but perhaps we ought to ask more often “How do I know this is true?”  Within a company it is not unusual for things to be accepted as correct because everyone is repeating them, rather than actually going to the source data.  Group think is a dangerous basis for making decisions. 

It’s not about the nail

Monday, August 12th, 2013

If you are a man, then this video will probably make you feel that this is all about you.  You may even laugh… it is very well done.  However, it raises an interesting point.  At work, we very much focus on the facts that are being conveyed.  We listen for them and pay attention to this type of content. However, just like this video, most conversations contain two types of information, what is happening AND how we feel about it.  Men tend to dial into the former and neglect the latter.  At home, this is a bad idea, but there is a cost to ignoring emotional information in the work place.  We need to know how someone feels about something.  Are they excited, scared, bored?  Do they have an objection that they are suppressing, perhaps based on personal values, perhaps because they don’t think it will work, but don’t think you will listen. 

Asking “How do you feel about this?” is NOT the same as asking “What do you think?” and you should always ask both questions and be clear with the other person that you are looking for a different bit of information.  Ignore emotional content at your peril!  

Communication across the divide

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

signlanguageI was listening to a radio program based on a book “Far from the Tree” about deaf culture.  It was a phrase that gave me pause; it had never occurred to me that deaf people might have a separate and unique culture.  I listened on and learnt about the nuance of meaning the deaf could convey with a gesture akin to the way we use tonality and the penny dropped.  In the same way as each language enables particular subtleties in meaning in particular areas, so the deaf are able to convey shades of meaning to each other that we can not.  They experience the world differently and share those experiences via a different medium… of course they have their own culture.

beethovenThis got me thinking that in the same way that there is a gulf between hearing and non-hearing communication, there are subtle gaps between each of us.  We all use words which carry uniquely different weights and resonances for each of us; expressions can trigger a variety of emotions depending on our culture and upbringing.  We gloss over all this in the haste of our daily lives but these micro-failures of communication happen all the time, even with those we love.

If it is important, then take the time not just to say what you want, but also to test what they have heard and how they understand that.

“No two animals…”

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

dogs noseI was listening to the radio this morning and heard a scientist, Professor Brian Cox, say “No two animals see the world in the same way.”  He was referring to how catfish sense things through the murky waters via vibrations on the river bed and a swarm of chemicals in the river. Another example would be how, for instance, snakes find their prey via heat sensors near where their nose is.  Bats and dolphins use echo location, bees and other insects use infra red wavelengths to see markings on flowers that we can’t see.  So he was illustrating that different species have a whole spectrum of senses they each deploy in different ways to map and explore their worlds.  snake, sense, jacobson's organ

As humans we are used to the idea that blind people can find their way, unsighted, through environments that are highly complex and would bewilder a sighted person; perfumiers can distinguish an amazing complexity of scents, similarly wine growers have a much keener ability to analyse tastes. 

However, his statement is true at a much more basic, though more subtle level.  We each have our own little world, which we label ‘real’; we have a set of rules of what is right and fair, and how things ‘should’ be.  We have a set of values and beliefs about what is true and how the world is.  Some of these come from our upbringing, our societal and familial beliefs, some from our experiences.  We each build a little inner model that helps us understand and navigate our lives.  However, what is seldom discussed or realised. is each of these unchallenged models is totally different, and we only find out about that when we get into arguments with people about what is right or real.  We often hear about how men and women have different views on what is important, or what is ‘going on’.  That is just one slightly more visible element of these different worlds we inhabit.  There is more information about this here.

We need to be aware of these unchallenged assumptions, beliefs and views as they interfere with our communication and can cause friction and arguments, just think about the troubles in the Middle East.  One really good example is how the Americans are indoctrinated into believing they are the biggest and best nation in the world and appointed by God to keep the peace… their peace, which in fact means waging war all over the world, far away from their homes!

If you wish to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding and stress remember Professor Cox’s words “No to animals..” And that includes you an me.. “ see the world in the same way”

Canine blogging

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

A friend’s son was saying yesterday, that on walking their dog, she had insisted on stopping every 30 yds to investigate every lamp post and leave frequent little doggie messages. This put me in mind of yesterday’s blog about Neanderthals where I was suggesting their cave painting was the equivalent of blogging. It seems to me that this canine behaviour is exactly the same, each dog needing to communicate, to both pick up and leave messages, almost like tweeting. So perhaps the need to communicate and broadcast our thoughts is far deeper than one might think…?


Seeing what is (and isn’t) there…

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

DSCF0258I was in reflective mood this morning, so I went for a stroll.  The birds were singing gloriously and the squirrels were chittering angry at me for crashing their party.  I looked up at the clouds and I have truly never seen such 3D images.  They seemed to be an advancing armada of space craft, at least to me.  There is a long history of people looking skywards and seeing patterns, pictures and portents in both the clouds and the stars.

Then it occurred to me that we do much the same thing with other people’s actions and words.  We see, or think we see something and we interpret it, often in a self-referential way, so that the story pivots about us and how it impacts us.  As a race, and as a species, we have got quite good at interpreting signs and nuance, but an awful lot of the time we are just plain wrong.  We see a person grimace when they look our way and think they don’t like us or are angry but don’t know that they have a back problem.orion 

We can’t stop making these interpretations, it is part of our nature to do so, and to scan our environment for threats, but how often has someone close to you said something like “I know you are cross with me”, when you are neither cross nor even thinking about them?  If we can’t stop drawing conclusions from incomplete data the least we need to do is to check our assumptions, in an open, non-accusatory way, by saying something like “How are you feeling?” or “What are you thinking?”, simple open questions.  This can help avoid an awful lot of hurt and needless upset, and in business, can prevent wasted energy and poor decisions.

“All meanings, we know, depend on the key of interpretation.”  George Eliot

“All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”   Friedrich Nietzsche

The first cuckoos and their lessons in branding

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

I was walking yesterday and heard my first cuckoos. At first there was just one in the distance, and I thought “How perfect!”, spring sunshine and birdsong. We walked a little further then heard him again, only clearer, he seemed to have moved closer. Then I realised the song was different; a moment later it was clear there were two males, both singing their distinctive version of the familiar call, both proclaiming the efficacy of their wares to all the females nearby.

It occurred to me later, on reading a familiar online network’s blogs that we are like these cuckoos, puffing out our chests and singing to the world, hoping someone is noticing… We know the cuckoos strategy works, but does ours?! Its highly distinctive call serves two purposes; firstly it is claiming a territory and is highly recognisable, but its second purpose is the pay- off, it is seeking to attract a mate.

How do we ensure that we are offering something not just distinctive, but also something our audience really wants, or are we just making a lot of noise and achieving very little?