Conflict and communication barriers can be some of our biggest energy drains for difference-making solopreneurs. Being misunderstood can be frustrating as hell, and can make it hard to focus or be present for ourselves or our other clients.
The lovely Leanne Chapman, a self-expression coach, former psychologist and fellow Goddess Circle sister, has some great recommendations for overcoming communication barriers. How many of her suggestions could you use in your day-to-day life and business?
Clear communication is important in all relationships, and never more so than as a solo entrepreneur. In this role, support and connection are vital for survival in the business world but they take skill to develop and maintain.
The most common cause of conflict between business owners and their clients or colleagues is due to what researcher Thomas Gordon calls “communication barriers”. When we use these in our communication, we unknowingly leave others feeling defensive and resentful. Sometimes they may even withdraw completely from us. Gordon estimates that we use these barriers in conversation up to 90 percent of the time, therefore it’s important we become aware of what they are.
Praise leads to conflict? It doesn’t always, but there are times when praise is given with an ulterior motive in mind – “I know you’ll help me with my launch because you’re such a thoughtful person”. Also known as “sweet-talk”, you may have employed this on occasion to persuade someone to do something you knew they didn’t really want to. Avoid manipulating others. It’s best to be candid and ask directly for what we want.
We use this when we want to help someone feel better. Dig a little deeper though and it’s sometimes more about making ourselves feel better. It’s difficult to watch someone we care about struggling while we sit by feeling helpless. If we can cheer them up, not only will they feel better but so will we. When Jennifer was held up in traffic, making her late to a meeting with her coach Sonia, she felt frazzled and annoyed. “Oh don’t worry”, said Sonia brightly when Jennifer finally arrived. “It doesn’t matter”.
Far from making Jennifer feel better, it left her feeling that Sonia had dismissed her frustrating experience as trivial. Reassurance can make people feel better, but just as often it can block them from expressing their feelings freely, causing them to withdraw. What Jennifer wanted was for her coach to validate her feelings – “yes it’s frustrating when that happens”. Only then could she let it go and focus on the meeting.
3. Logical Argument
Logic can be another attempt at avoiding someone’s strong emotions. When Susan told her mentor that she’d discovered her assistant Joe had been planning to go and work for her competitor, her mentor said “well you should be glad you found out now rather than later” . It was natural for Susan to feel upset by the situation, but her mentor’s ‘look on the bright side’ response left her feeling unable to talk it through. It’s best to avoid using logic and factual evidence when a person is highly emotional.
Most of us are guilty of this one. We divert the conversation because we would rather discuss something else. Instead of having a dialogue, we end up with two monologues that never quite seem to meet up. It’s hard to be sure the other person has even heard us, because he or she has rushed on to talk about themselves. When this happens, we really aren’t hearing each other, because while one person is talking, the other is thinking about what to say next.
If you hear yourself saying “Oh that happened to me when I first started out too, what I did was…” stop! Wait your turn. Take time to respond to what’s important to the other person or he or she will end up feeling unheard and disregarded.
Ever played amateur detective? Analysing someone’s behaviour is known as diagnosing which, outside a therapist’s office, is usually based on guesswork. When Karen arrived late for Sophie’s book launch, Sophie felt slighted and whispered to her friends “she arrived late because she didn’t really want to come at all”. In fact Karen had been on the phone to her mum because her nephew had just been in a car accident.
When we make assumptions about another person’s behaviour, we are quite often wrong. Even if we know someone very well, it’s still best to check things out with them. If we don’t, we can end up feeling resentful and the other person has no idea why.
When a colleague or client comes to us with a problem, we naturally want to help. However giving advice based on what we would do – “you should go see my accountant” – prevents others finding their own solutions. Usually he or she is quite capable of doing this, and will probably find more appropriate answers than the ones we came up with. What they need from us is someone to simply listen.
7. Excessive Questioning
We’ve all experienced the feeling of being interrogated, having a series of questions thrown at us one after the other – “Did you mean to do that? Why? Is that what you usually do?”. None of us like being given the third degree. Yet even one question can be intrusive, especially if it’s close-ended. This sort of question is one which can only be answered with one or two words, usually yes or no, leaving little room for elaboration. Close-ended questions are usually more appropriate for the law courts.
There is a place for questions, but make them open-ended. These questions give the other person more airtime in the conversation because they can’t be answered in one or two words. “What did you think of the new product?” is a more effective question than “Did you like the product?”. While “why” questions also fall into the category of open-ended questions, they can put people on the defensive. Try rewording them as “what” questions instead: “what is it about the product you don’t like?”.
While we may think we’re being helpful, at times the way we express our ‘help’ can be seen by others as criticism. “Wouldn’t it be better to do it this way?” implies that your way is better than what the person is currently doing.
Did you identify with any of these barriers? Usually there are a couple we’re particularly guilty of, although we can slip up on all of them from time to time. Undoubtedly you’ve been on the receiving end of many of them too. With all these barriers to successful communication, how does anyone ever get along?
Rather than feel guilty about our communication slip-ups, what we can do is focus our attention on identifying ways to make improvements. We can start making these changes immediately simply by being aware of when these communication spoilers creep into our conversations. The occasional slip-up is unlikely to do much harm, it’s the repeated use of these barriers that we need to watch for.
Leanne worked as a psychologist for 15 years before deciding to combine creative expression with personal growth. She is also a qualified life coach and holds a Diploma of Creative Writing.
Through her own healing journey, Leanne has discovered powerful processes which she now shares through individual sessions and online resources, using a range of creative activities. http://claimyourtreasure.com
Image courtesy of Janat Ki Talash
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