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Effective Communication Starts with the Right Attitudes

Effective communication – in one-on-one encounters, meetings, on the phone, via e-mail and text, and anywhere else – starts with the right attitudes. There are millions of people in professional and business life who have all the communication skills they could possibly need, yet fail to use them consistently because their attitudes are negative. They may use them with some people, but not with others. Training in communication skills will do nothing for them – they need character development.

The most essential attitude is respect for the dignity of other people and oneself. Others are: confidence, which involves shelving the cynicism that can be so off-putting; aspiration, or the hope of better things to come from the communication; prudence, or the common sense and good judgment to know what to say and what not to say; the self-control that will ensure that you are not lured into any emotional arguments; a sense of fairness that considers the needs and wants of others, and always having the courage of your convictions.

Together, those attitudes will enable you to be assertive in inter-relating with other people, rather than aggressive or submissive, the two attitudes guaranteed to make relationships dysfunctional. Assertiveness is neither pushy nor domineering, but rather, cool, calm, and collected, in explaining and discussing sensitive situations. It is the first guideline in the following formula for effective communication (remembering that no formula will compensate for the absence of the attitudes):

  • Defining reality for all concerned is really all that assertiveness amounts to – telling it as it is without getting over-heated by the emotions.

  • The ICE formula is a good way to stay cool and practice assertiveness. ‘I’ is for the ISSUE, ‘C’ is for the CONSEQUENCES, and ‘E’ is for the emotions. You might say to a colleague: “The ISSUE is that you keep interrupting me, knowing I have a deadline to meet. The CONSEQUENCE is that I might let our customer down. The EMOTIONS that arise as a result are frustration and anger.” The ball is in your colleague’s court.

  • Emotive language and rational conversation are incongruous, and in being assertive, one should never use words like ‘idiot’, ‘liar’, or ‘loser’.

  • Tone is more powerful than content – if someone is not sure what you mean, they will always believe tone before content. You can say “You fool!” to either enrage or endear.

  • Remember – communication shapes relationships for better or worse. Relationships change all the time – and communication is the driver.

  • Motivation is usually the purpose of communication, and the best way to motivate others is inspiration. We are all capable of inspiring people, and we do it by demonstrating a sincere interest in their well-being.

  • Give yourself clear direction before your next important phone-call, e-mail, or meeting:

    • Who are you talking to? Write down their name and title, and think of the pressures they face.

    • What do you want them to think/feel? What rational and emotional responses do you want from them when they get your message?

    • What do you want them to do? Specify the actions you want them to take.

    • What’s in it for them? This is the key – it requires you to get inside their heads and understand their motivations. This will tell you what to say and how to say it.

    • Where will this take the relationship? Will it be better? Or worse? Rewarding or barren?

  • Empathy is essential. It grows out of the attitudes listed above, starting with respect. Empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Relationships, inspiration, direction, and empathy are the RIDE Guide – it will improve your effectiveness in communication 20 percent immediately. Applying it need only take a few minutes, but it may well save you hours – nothing eats time like relationship issues.

Relationships and the reality of office politics
What’s the biggest cause of stress at work? I have done a lot of surveys over the years, and in every one of them the most common answer has been ‘other people’.

Effective Communication Starts with the Right Attitudes
There are millions of people in professional and business life who have all the communication skills they could possibly need, yet fail to use them consistently because their attitudes are negative.


The Power of Integrity     64-9-535 8932    amd@xtra.co.nz