Much like the slogan, “Location, Location, Location” is used to capture the importance of location to the value or desirability of a particular property, the phrase, “Communication, Communication, Communication” could be used to capture the importance of the verbal and non-verbal exchange between people in the process of relationship building both in the professional and personal realm.
Over the years, I have found communication to be an essential key to relationship building. I often find myself reflecting upon how I might have delivered certain information or interacted with someone in a more effective manner. Yet, despite my recognition of this importance and my attempts to acquire and practice skills in this area, I find that there is yet ever more to learn of the relevance and applicability of these skills. I rather think that if there ever was a subject to which one could devote themselves to lifelong learning, it would be “communication”.
I am struck with how much of our reading on process consulting has reinforced this idea of the importance of communication and in particular, how the readings relate to some of the “guidelines” which I have formulated for myself over the years.
1) How you say something is just as important as what you say.
In his book, Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used, Block gives many examples of the importance of “how” ideas are expressed. For instance, he stresses that acknowledging the uniqueness of a client’s situation is key. However, doing it in such a way that the situation does not seem insurmountable is important. He offers a few examples:
“There are two unique aspect of your situation: the pressure being placed on your form above and the desert climate of this location.” (p. 73)
“Your situation has several unique things that make it both interesting and frustrating.” (p. 73)
My own experiences have taught me that both my choice of words and the tone in which I deliver them are crucial.
2) Communication is more than mere words. Pay attention to non-verbal cues.
Block offers some suggestions on what to do when you are stuck in the contracting phase.
“Your eyes give you the best cues that the contracting process has bogged down. Trust what you see. Believe nonverbal messages. There is a lot written about body language-how to interpret different positions and how to posture yourself to communicate or conceal certain messages.” (p. 90)
Learning to identify and interpret body language can often help you avoid conflict.
3) There is risk in speaking the truth, but it is a necessary risk.
As enticing as a project may seem, Block cautions the reader not to proceed if there does not appear to be a reasonable chance for success.
“Despite the risk, it is in your and the client’s best interests to refuse projects that do not have a reasonable chance for success.” (p. 95)
As difficult as it is sometimes to speak the truth, I find that not being truthful ultimately makes a situation much more difficult down the road.
4) Look for meaning beyond the words. Words often mask a person’s true feelings.
Block explains that resistance is merely a reaction to an emotional process taking place within the client. It is often the manifestation of unexpressed fears and doubts. I have no doubt that some of my relationships would improve were I to stop and contemplate the unspoken message of my own and others’ expressed communications.
“. . . there is no way you can talk clients out of their resistance because resistance is an emotional process. Behind the resistance are certain feelings, and you cannot talk people out of how they are feeling.” (p. 149)
5) There is a time to speak and a time to listen.
Block’s third step in dealing with resistance is to “be quiet”. He admonishes us to listen to the client’s response (p. 51). I could definitely benefit from learning to practice this skill more often in my communication.
Finally, Block’s emphasis on “authenticity” is especially relevant to communication and relationship building. It occurs to me that authenticity is the foundation upon which relationships are built. Without it, disintegration will inevitably occur. Certainly, knowing oneself is a part of authenticity. How can one be authentic if one does not know or understand their core values and principles? Philosophically speaking, I wonder if a lack of authenticity has not led to much of the moral decline in the corporate world. For that matter, perhaps it is a lack of authenticity which has led to many of the communication breakdowns in the personal realm. It may well be that authenticity, as well as other tenants of communication have relevance which extends far beyond the business of process consulting.