Conversations: How We Speak Rather Than What We Say
Conversation and the spoken word are simply facts of life; yet, there are many important pieces of information that are either misconstrued or miscommunicated due to the nature of how we communicate in any given moment. In his article “It Isn’t What You Say But How You Say It. Having Conversations That Build Trust” Anurag Harsh discusses three features of effective communication: self-awareness, trust building, and a willingness to navigate difficult conversations. Here are the important take-aways:
- Let your mind catch up with your mouth. In other words, speak slowly (especially when nervous– which is exactly when we have a tendency to talk faster and not think). Remember to breathe; sometimes taking a steadying breath is all one needs to clear the mind and refocus on the task at hand. Above all else, when in doubt just stop talking. Once something is said it cannot be taken back, and back-pedaling to correct a spoken mistake is much worse than pausing to regroup beforehand.
- Say what you mean, and mean what you say. You are as good as your word– if people can trust your word, they know they can trust you. This is essential for building trust, especially in the workplace. Harsh describes four behaviors that can stop trust dead in its tracks: gossiping, lying, denying, and breaking one’s word. Taking ownership and responsibility keeps one’s integrity (and others’ trust in them) intact.
- Take part in “crucial conversations.” Harsh describes a “crucial conversation” as “a discussion between two or more people where stakes are high, opinions vary, emotions run strong, and the repercussions could be far-reaching.” While it’s tempting for many of us to steer wide and clear of these conversations, partaking in them is extremely important because when “someone sits back passively… they will never be totally committed to a final decision. Those people generally end up quietly resisting and furtively critical.” Know what solution you want, understand the solutions others want, and always remember that situations are never black and white.
The biggest take-away, of course, is to process a situation and actually think about it before opening your mouth to speak.