Ask any engineer about repairing something and you can be pretty certain they will speak vociferously about how good anticipatory maintenance would have prevented the problem.
This is as true for workplace communication as it is for the mechanical photocopier.
But I am examining that situation when a break down has happened and repair is required.
It will not be easy but these thoughts will help you.
- As soon as you become aware of a likely breakdown, even though the situation may be quite ‘heated’, make sure you leave lines of communication open. This will allow you to re-start a dialogue.
- Take a step back and assess how the situation has escalated to this point, and then commit to improving the situation
- Take time to reflect. Brian Clough once said about disagreements with his players: “We talk about it for 20 minutes and then we decide I was right.” Now I am not suggesting Brian Clough as a role model for modern workplace communication but think about those words. There are probably three versions of the situation – what each party thinks, and the truth. Reflect on the cause of the broken communication, re-frame from the other person’s point of view, and be prepared to admit mistakes.
- Remember we are all different – the way we communicate, our working style, our values – what impact did that have on the communication breakdown? Really focus on those differences and seek a ‘clear the air’ conversation, accepting that those differences exist but not allowing them to have an impact on the conversation. This is easier said than done, but having it at the forefront of your mind gives you a better chance of success.
- Any definition of communication will talk about it being two-way. Two people were involved in the breakdown. As your first step to repairing broken communication, you must take more than half of the responsibility for the breakdown and the start of the repair. An honest assessment of the situation is needed. This is the time for frank questions such as, ‘what is my part in the breakdown of this relationship?’.
- Timing – this can be very tricky. Giving time for the dust to settle can be important, but conversely, giving time can make the issue fester. There is no right answer, all you can do is think about your situation and decide what might be best.
- During the re-building process, think before you act, assess the potential outcome before it occurs, and consider how the other person might react. Look at the situation from the other person’s point of view and modify your language and behaviour accordingly. Know when to call a time out - if a conversation is deteriorating again, take a break and then re-group.
Training in management communication can prevent communication breakdowns. If your maintenance regime lets you down and the worst though happens, I hope these thoughts will help.
Contact us now to see find out how we can help you improve your management communication.
Nigel Walpole, MD, Bray Leino Learning
In my series of blogs I’ll talk through my thoughts on some of the key issues facing managers in the workplace - lessons learnt, tips for success and general musings.