Effective Communication Filters – Neither Good nor Bad

“Well how do you know if you’re doing it right?!” said a frustrated 30 year old man in my audience.

He was irritated by my most often used response.

good or badThe group was asking me questions like, “Isn’t it good to have open gestures when you’re talking to someone?” Or, “I’ve always heard that it’s bad to cross your arms in a meeting.” Or, “When speaking, aren’t you supposed to tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them?”

To each of these questions I began my answers with “It depends.” Followed, of course, by amazing advice.

The “it depends” finally got under the gentleman’s skin when he shot up his hand and, before I could call on him, blurted “Well how do you know if you’re doing it right?! What’s good? What’s bad? What should I be doing? What should I avoid?”

I had pinpointed the perfectionist of our group. Bless his heart.

In my blog post “Noticing vs. Judging,” I explained the important first step in improving your communication skills.

Looking at your communication techniques through the filter of what’s good and what’s bad, means that you are still placing a judgement. And, as you hopefully read in the previous post, judgements limit you.

Instead of trying to figure out what is good and what is bad, you will be better served if you ask yourself “What is effective and what is ineffective?”

Casino Royale

Casino Royale

It’s like poker. There are rules, tactics and strategies on how to play the game. But, as any great poker player will tell you, you don’t play the game, you play your opponent.

When it comes to communication skills, the only difference is (in my philosophy of teaching) the other person isn’t your opponent. They are your collaborator.

Certain tactics will work more effectively on one person than another. Certain situations call for out-of-the-box strategies. A plethora of factors will determine what you do and how you do it. That’s what makes it so fun!

You have to be light on your feet to be communicationally nimble. (Yes, that’s a word I just make up. I’m keeping it because it made me smile.)

When you are preparing for a speech, meeting, or difficult conversation, there is a judgmental undertone if you ask yourself, “Should I do this or that? Would that be good or bad?”

Your question should be, “Would that be effective or ineffective?” “Would that work for this particular situation with this particular person and our particular relationship … or not?”

You need to be a communication chameleon – ever so slightly changing your approach based on the person you are speaking to.

How do you know if your approach was effective or ineffective? Simple. Did you get the response or behavior you were looking for? If you did, effective. If you didn’t, ineffective; time to adjust.