Really, did I just say that? Yup, I did. When it comes to communication & problem solving in relationships – working or otherwise – Robert Matthew Van Winkle hit the nail on the head in, “Ice, Ice, Baby” with the salient prose, “Stop, Collaborate & Listen.” Allow me to interpret this classic masterpiece; reordered for maximum effect.
With so many demands your attention – the interruption of email, text messages, IM’s, phone calls, and people dropping by or stopping you in the hallway. The passive attention grabbers of the internet, social media sites, personal tasks, social commitments or wondering what day it is since you have a report due on Thursday at noon…it’s a wonder anything gets done under these conditions. The fix? Stop. Just stop doing anything that doesn’t relate to what is currently happening. It’s time to focus. Stop everything else. Make the physical gesture of silencing the noise and make the mental effort to pay attention. Stop.
People have a heard time just sitting back and listening. Devote all of that focus we created above to really hear what is being said. Turn off your mental detective who is trying to jump to a solution; silence the inner lawyer working to dismantle, rebut or defend against what it is hearing. Instead, put yourself in the speakers’ shoes, see through their eyes, and feel their feelings for a few moments.
Once everything is on the table, now is the time to open up communications by asking open-ended questions. This is not the time to deliver any counterpoints – we silenced the lawyer, remember? It’s time to ask questions that provide you with a deeper understanding of the speakers’ feelings and point of view. Open-ended questions expand the discussion because they can’t be answered with a simple, “yes” or “no”. They require more information to be provided. For instance, “How do you know when the job is complete”, “What defines success”, and “What could be done differently next time” are all excellent examples of questions that require the speaker to add specific information into the conversation. Having that meaning means that a richer understanding and leads to the best possible solutions.
Once you have followed these steps, lather, rinse and repeat or, follow the steps over and over until you have come to a solution.
Once you have it, celebrate! Perhaps with a guilty pleasure?