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Communication 2: Appreciative and solution-oriented communication

In part 2 of the series about "Communication Techniques" I will introduce you to specific techniques to create a successful and solution-oriented communication. Among others, this includes techniques such as " Systemic YES " and "non-violent communication". You will be able to give more constructive feedback and maintain an open and appreciative dialogue even in difficult situations.


Transcript of the video

Welcome to the space beyond right and wrong. And for the upcoming video that sentence has even more meaning.

Today I will introduce you to 2 effective communication techniques to keep even a difficult dialogue open as well as solution-oriented and to give clear and constructive feedback.

Let us quickly look into why we often communicate the way we do. In our western culture we are socialized in the belief that there is one truth. But is it? Really? Are you sure? The french philosopher Rousseau was of different opinion. There are always four sides to a story: your side, their side, the truth and what really happened. Sounds truer to me.

In systemic consulting you find a matching concept to utilise different opinions and perspectives to the benefit of all. It is called tetralemma and derived from indian philosophy. Instead of fighting for either-or, so respectively who is right or wrong, you consider basically 4 positions: first one either, which might be your position - second one or, which might be the other person’s position - third one as well as, which is the combination of both positions - and the 4th position: none of the 2 positions but something new. There are a lot of ways to oscillate from position 1 either and position 2 or to position 3: as-well-as. Just a few examples how this could be done: iteration, detect pseudo differences, generate more than the sum of its parts, introduce systematic ambiguity and so on. Suffice to say, that instead of getting stuck who is right or wrong, all parties move forward in a mutually beneficial way.

What I regularly observe in companies is, we often argue within the context of abstract words. To give you an example, this could be terms like strategy or vision or more value-based terms like solidarity or loyalty. Your definition of loyalty might significantly differ from mine. Are you right and I am wrong or am I right and you are wrong? And where - most importantly - does that lead us? We get stuck and worst case our relationship is harmed. It would be better for both of us to see the perspective and opinion of the other person as an enrichment. I experienced that in dozens of workshops and would like to give you another example: in strategy workshops when a team gets stuck, they usually debate and argue endlessly about specific topics. And then I ask each person a very easy and simple question: please tell me what strategy means for you! How do you define strategy! And guess what: ask 10 people and you usually get 10 definitions. Ask yourself: is it possible to agree on specific topics if people do speak 10 different languages?

So let us dive into two pragmatic, easy-to-learn communication techniques to get the boat moving again. As simple and as easy they are, it takes deliberate practice to integrate them in your communication style as old communication patterns are usually strong.

The first one is called systemic yes. If someone expresses a differing opinion you refrain from saying the word „no“. „No“ shuts down the dialogue and both or all of you get stuck. And even if you are not aware of it, on a neurological and involuntary level it will. Instead you say yes - not to the other’s opinion - but there are a lot of yeses you can communicate: yes, I am hearing what you say … yes I can see your position … yes I would like to learn more about the assumptions leading to your opinion … and so on. And then you replace „no“ with and „and“: „and“ it is important for me to consider … and I would like to draw your attention to an additional aspect … and I see additional topics to be considered and so on. You keep the dialogue open and solution-oriented and jointly approach a solution.

The second one is called non-violent-communication and has proven particularly beneficial in communicating feedback and dissolving conflicts. I will illustrate the four step process of non-violent-communication with an easy, real-life example. Let us assume you setup a meeting with 6 participants and one comes 15 Minutes late - the other 5 participants including you waiting and are already going a bit off and angry. When Johnny-come-lately finally arrives one of you might say: gosh - you are always late. This is not only attacking the person instead of his behaviour, but also most probably not changing his behaviour.

With non-violent-communication you go a different route in 4 steps. The first one is to describe the situation as objective and fact-based as possible. So the first sentence could be: we did setup our meeting for 9 o’clock a week ago and you accepted the invitation. Now it is 9.15 and all the five of us are waiting since 15 minutes for you. Obviously you just described what happened and you also refrain from saying you had to wait, because you didn’t - it was your choice. Then you describe your feelings towards that behaviour, as for example: and this makes me go off or I get angry and so on. In the business context this step is optional as some people do not like to express their feelings. However, if you feel ok with it, I recommend to tell the other person. We are not robots - we are humans. In a third step you explain to Johnny-come-lately which of your values was violated by this behaviour. So for example this could be: it is important for me that we use our time effectively and efficiently ... or …  It is important to me to respect that each of us has a huge workload - and so on. And now comes what all that leads to. You phrase a question in which you specifically and precisely ask for the behaviour or action you would like to see. In this case it could be something of the likes: And I would like to ask you if in our next meeting you can ensure to be on time. Johnny-come-lately might say yes but consider also to get a no, as for example: I do have problems to ensure this, as I have a meeting each Monday prior to our meeting at 8.30 which might take longer. And now you have a dialogue like: OK … we can understand that, would it be helpful to shift our Monday meeting to 9.30? Can you then ensure to be on time? Would that be possible for all the other participants … and so on. The relationship thereby stays intact and you most probably find a solution in a few minutes.

What I have observed over and over in companies is 3 reactions when people should address difficult topics and foresee a possible conflict. All 3 behaviours are detrimental to the organisation. The 1st one is to put the topic under the carpet and wait until it explodes. The 2nd one is a passiv-aggressiv behaviour, like … so what - then I will also come late next time.  But as Paul Watzlawick said you can not not communicate. And the 3rd ist to enter into conflict, argue and harm the relationship. The good news is: this is in most cases simply a lack of communication skills. So try the 2 techniques for yourself and be in awe what happens and how easy you you will dissolve conflicts.

Do not belief anything I say - try it for yourself and practice the art of possibility.

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