I remember when a Sr. Director of a large organization walked in and announced, “Communication doesn't work.” He proceeded to tell me about a recent major re-organization he tried to stop, but which went forward despite his best efforts to re-direct it. The re-org created mass disruption and confusion. He was definitely frustrated.
The frustration I’m talking about is the kind that involves other people. I’m a people expert. As someone who’s coached and delivered workshops to professionals and executives for over 30 years, you can imagine how many stories I've heard, how much frustration has crossed my doorstep for assistance. Every kind of situation you can imagine. Take all the frustration you've ever experienced, to that add all the frustration you've ever seen around you, and you begin to have a sense of the amount of, and types of, frustration I've heard about and helped with. Not just limited to work, but spanning the depths of personal life too.
And I'm expected to provide effective help that produces results in a matter of days, not years.
I'm going to tell you 2 guiding principles and 3 areas of focus that have enabled me to help as many people as I have so you can make frustration evaporate from your own life, replaced by the sweet exhilaration of success I’ve seen thousands of times.
The first of these is, that 80% of what is going on has nothing to do with the other person, it's about you and what you're doing. Before you decide I’m being insensitive, harsh, hostile or overbearing, I’d like you to consider what I’m telling you as a workable truth that has the power to liberate you from any frustrating situation. Because what it means is that you can do something to change it. And change it dramatically. The power to transform any situation or any person begins with your ability to assume the cause role in your communications.
The second principle has to do with how you’re handling the situation. You’re in a situation where you want to make something happen or to change something. It involves another person or people. You try to communicate. Your communication fails to get the results you want. You get frustrated.
That’s a simple description of what’s happening. The people I help tell me how communication isn’t working and specifically what about the other person is making it difficult, even what is wrong with the other person. I often hear, “I tried communicating with them and it didn’t work.”
As soon as you think communication isn’t working, you're going to get frustrated. Do you ever feel that way? Feel communication doesn’t work? You’re not alone.
Most of the people I help are super achievers and, believe me, even they have many moments of feeling that way. We super achievers are hard on ourselves and don’t accept defeat easily.
The communication skills I’ve spent years developing, coupled with a unique career that gives me a front row seat as the people I help turn even impossible situations around into victories, has provided me with too much evidence to ignore. I now know that communication always works.
So, what's the disconnect?
People are eager to tell me what’s frustrating them. I hear the disconnect as I listen to the stories they tell when they first arrive. I can clearly see that what they're calling communication, isn't. This, by the way, is true whether it’s about their 1-on-1 communication, meetings, or presentations.
They think they’re communicating (heck, they really believe it), but what they’re actually doing is not communication. They are talking, persuading, convincing, selling, explaining endlessly, debating, arguing, complaining, demanding, asserting, insisting, challenging, defending, justifying, overpowering, drowning them in details, just putting it out there, scolding, lecturing, posturing, pleading, trying to impress, throwing it out and hoping it lands, dropping hints and leaving clues, being indirect, threatening, forcing, getting emotional, and sometimes outright manipulating. And they are correct – these things do not work. Never have, never will. When someone is doing even one of these other things, you can be sure the one thing they are not doing is causing real communication to happen.
And, let me be completely clear, not one of these other things is communication. Not even close. Not anywhere near the right neighborhood. No hope of landing success with any of them. They are communication pretenders.
For example, take the Sr. Director, Bill, who was trying to make the re-org go away. He started out endlessly explaining why it was a bad idea to everyone who would listen. When that didn’t work he moved to debating, debates he always lost. Debating was then replaced with pleading and threatening. Bill was a loyal, valuable high level director, so others put up with it, but it was all useless in getting anyone to change their mind. He talked himself blue in the face and had given up on “communication”.
I understand this well myself. I was a debater until I learned how to communicate. I could never understand how I could win the debate and lose the issue or the relationship.
“Communication” is one of the most frequently used words we have today, and yet I find hardly anyone really knows what true communication is or how to make it happen. The usual definitions of communication that are casually thrown around are woefully inadequate. You need to operate with a precision definition to achieve success.
Communication, by definition, is 2-way. By definition, communication consists of complete clarity, unadulterated listening, and perfect understanding. By definition, communication requires these to be mutual.
It's your ability to make true communication, real communication, full communication, happen on a two-way basis, not just for you, but for the other person as well, that determines the outcomes you get.
Bill worked for a very large oil company (I guess they’re all very large actually). They had announced a re-org that affected thousands of individuals. The announcement came from the top about a week before I met him. During the workshop Bill realized that, despite all the talking, he had not communicated his thoughts effectively. Afterward, he went back and, for the first time, he communicated. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But he wasn’t doing all these other things any more. Initially he was told it was too late, the decision had already been made and he had to move forward. However, Bill went ahead and communicated his thoughts, this time he made it real communication, he communicated effectively, powerfully. He created understanding at a whole new level. This powerful and profound understanding penetrated and created a breakthrough.
Within 48 hours senior leadership retracted the re-org announcement. I’ve never heard of this before, that a re-org org announcement of this magnitude was retracted 2 weeks after it was made. It was the equivalent of saying, “We were wrong and we’re changing it back.” Simply on the basis of, “We understand more today than we did yesterday and, in light of this new understanding, we re-evaluated the situation and our decision.” Senior leadership was grateful to have a more complete picture of the situation. Everyone was relieved. Frustration evaporated.
The facts never changed. The level of understanding did. Bill caused it. A pure, powerful and profound degree of understanding resulted in a new decision.
What does this mean for you? Focus in on causing truly effective communication to happen the next time you get frustrated with someone. Don’t get caught into the trap of doing all those other communication pretenders. Cause real communication. Cause:
And make it 2-way, mutual.
The people I help come back to tell me magic happens when they do just that.
They got the promotion, conflict evaporated, the other person changed completely, their teenager’s talking to them, their vision is spreading throughout the organization, they closed the $400 million deal. I could go on. I'm swimming in client success stories, so nobody could ever get me to believe it doesn't work.
No tricks. No gimmicks. No sales talk. No debating. No arguing. No persuading. Just pure and profound communication.
That’s what I would love to see happen for you. Change your approach, make a profound level of communication happen and you'll experience the magic. When you can communicate at a profoundly effective level and get what you want, you won't feel frustrated, you'll feel elated.
The power to transform any situation or any person begins with your ability to assume the cause role in your communications.
Be the cause!