The following blog is by Jennifer Wall.
Electronic communication can be pretty self-absorbed: What am I doing. Where am I right now. And who am I here with. But I am not here to disparage the limitations of status updates, 140 characters or the decline of spelling. They have their place and use…and limitations.
The definition of communication is broad and includes the act of transmitting information electronically, but I prefer the late 14c definition of communication: join, unite, participate in. Re-tweeting doesn’t count. Liking doesn’t cut it either. It’s just fun. Connection happens when you talk with me, not at me.
Let’s assume you know your communication goal: a project champion, get buy-in, fix a problem, etc. Each goal might require a different strategy, but it’s through meaningful conversations that we create connection that begets real progress in our work.
How do you increase your capacity for a meaningful connection at the workplace? Be all of these: Authentic. Purposeful. Articulate. Careful. Respectful. And more...
Who are you talking to?
Before talking to someone for the first time, I tend to checkout their cube (whenever possible). Creepy? Not really. It gives me a window to what’s important to them and the basis to ask some standard questions. When asked genuinely, you begin an interesting conversation that nurtures a relationship. Start with family pictures, jewelry or the knitting bag by their desk.
Caution: Avoid the temptation to group types to simplify approaches. Not only am I more than my age, title, religion or organization, I am deeper than my StrengthFinders themes (for the record: Communication, Context, Intellection, Maximizer and Relator). This and other methods can help fill out a picture, but can also distract from what makes each of us unique.
What are their triggers?
My trigger is integrity. I was once asked on an interview what was my weakness. I told the interviewer that I needed to work on my response when I felt integrity had been compromised. Instead of losing trust in that person, I needed to reconnect and get to the root of the issue. I understood what my approach needed to be because I understood my trigger.
When you fully listen to others, you will get the clues about their triggers, but more importantly you’ll learn how to respond or approach them when triggered.
It’s not about you...
It doesn’t matter how bad my day is going. I open most conversations at work with, “What can I do for you?”
Not everyone uses this modus operandi. Some folks bring their bad day to work and want to “share” it with you. Don’t be one of those people (it’ll hurt your career more than you think). Put your issues on the shelf and connect later with the individuals involved with that issue, but not your co-worker (unless they’re the issue) who needs help meeting a deadline. And when faced with one of those people, ask if there is anything you can do to help.
…and it is about You
Building a relationship is as much about tearing down barriers as it is about putting a few of them up. We call them boundaries. Boundaries can be used in situations where you need to redirect an angry co-worker, gracefully accept responsibility (and disarm your co-worker) when needed, or they can be more subtle.
Recently, I had a conversation I thought was going well. He was sharing about his beloved rescue dog, so I mentioned mine. His voice flattened and he looked away. I immediately asked him something about his dog and he lit back up. I learned he didn’t need to connect with me to have a successful conversation. I put up my boundaries, met him where he was at and didn’t take his disinterest personally.
You will be more successful in your job if you can meet people where they’re at. They may come a bit further to meet you next time. And if not, you know exactly how much energy to put into your efforts with them in the future.
If this scares you to death…
For those of us with introvert tendencies, making these kinds of connections can be painful. Introversion can be a lot about how we fear others will perceive us. Meaningful communication requires putting that fear away—leveling those boundaries.
I’ve just skimmed the surface here. Each one of these asides could be their own blog topic. If you have specific questions, let me know here. Better yet, share how you’ve successfully connected with someone to achieve a goal.