This two-part series on deeper communication skills is designed to help you build a workplace environment where people interact positively and get more done with less effort.
Many workplace conflicts arise because of disparate values, goals, objectives, strategies and points of view. Well-meaning, intelligent leaders and employees can genuinely want to get along but not know how to communicate meaningfully and productively. When I work with groups in active conflict, I often help the participants learn and practice skills to help them connect on a deeper level, interact positively and generate positive results in the workplace.
We sometimes forget to build relationships before jumping into problem-solving and we don't consistently create environments where people are encouraged to work together to find solutions. The most common communication model is people talking at each other instead of with each other. I've found that individuals have an amazing capability to work collaboratively when they take the time to build a strong foundation first. Here is a practical approach to help you create a workplace environment where people reach mutually beneficial solutions. This process works best with groups of twenty people or less.
- Agree on a place and time to meet. Make it comfortable, interruption-free and conducive to conversation.
- Have a skilled, welcoming, neutral facilitator run the meeting.
- Have the facilitator welcome everyone and present the ground rules: One person talks at a time and, when that person is talking, everyone listens. All opinions and ideas are valid.
- Have the facilitator pick a single topic of interest.
- Have each person in the room talk about his or her perspective on the topic for up to two minutes. Encourage people to talk from the heart and not from the head. Also mention that they don't have to talk about anything they don't feel comfortable sharing.
- Ask the group to listen to the person speaking without interruptions, comments, editorializing, rebuttals, reactions or any other kind of distraction. Ask people to simply listen and remind them that everyone else will do the same for them when it's their turn.
- When everyone is done speaking ask the participants to share their impressions of what just happened. Go around the room and allow each person up to a minute to share.
- Take a break.
- Have the neutral facilitator pick another topic of interest.
Repeat the process three times.
Once you've repeated this process three times the group will be ready to move on to the next phase which is working together. Stay tuned for part two of this series where we'll talk about how to help people collaborate to solve problems. Until next time, what will you do to practice deeper communication skills in your workplace?