Monday, 5 October 2015

A Challenge: Communication Actions and Reactions

Developing your communication skills to become more effective can be a tricky thing.

After all, it is difficult to stop and analyse you communication with someone midway through that face to face conversation or when you are on the phone. If you stop suddenly to try to process the way things are going the other person will wonder why you have stopped and, in a prolonged silence, they will, inevitably, fill that silence by saying something else which will throw you off your train of thought anyway.

Many communication experts have honed their knowledge through years of study. Body language experts, for example, have studied endless hours of footage that they have been able to watch, rewind and watch again to gain their insights, naturally this makes them able to spot how people are using body language almost instantaneously but for the rest of us, trying to analyse body language while talking to someone is near impossible without having to disengage from that conversation, which, in turn, means we lose something from that communication.

Communication is something that happens in the moment, it is instinctive. How many times have we walked away from an encounter and thought to ourselves “I wish I had said that not that”

One way to develop yourself is to take one particular theme at a time and taking time alone to reflect on that theme. So here is a suggestion for that theme and a challenge for you to complete it!

A challenge for the week.

Newton’s Third Law of Physics tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reactions. If we think about this in terms of communication we can develop our own sense of how effectively we communicate and how communicating with others impacts on us.

For example, think about a manager who hands a folder to an employee and says “this needs doing immediately”.

On a simple level that action means that the equal and opposite reaction is that the employee has to stop doing whatever they were currently engaged in.

[For the pedants out there who say “but what if they were doing nothing?”. They still have to stop doing nothing in order to do something, besides if they were doing nothing what on earth are you paying them for!]

On a more complex level, different employees will react differently to the action demanded. One may enthusiastically relish being given the challenge whilst another may inwardly worry at the amount of work they had to get completed by the end of the day.

The crux of the matter is that every communication action elicits some form of reaction, albeit not necessarily a scientifically equal and opposite one.

So the challenge for the week is for you to identify the reactions to you communication actions. Obviously it would be impossible for us to analyse every single interaction we have, so the aim this week is to pick something every day, a team meeting, a performance review or an appointment with a customer, something that is in your diary and before that meeting think about the type of reactions you want to your communication actions.

Then, following the meeting, reflect on the actions and reactions that took place. Did you get the reactions you wanted or expected from you communication actions? If not how could you change your actions next time. It is also equally important to reflect on your reactions to what other people said, did they fill you with doubt or have you nodding enthusiastically in agreement?

The more opportunities we get to take time to reflect on communication the better we can develop our own sense of communication when we are in the middle of it so there is no need to stop midway through but we can analyse as we go.

One way of learning is to share thoughts and experiences so I have created a Facebook Page for you to add you thoughts and comments on your communication actions and reactions (link below)

So take the challenge this week, share your experiences and, most importantly, become a more effective communicator.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

You Need Social Intelligence

How many interactions with another human being have you had today?

Even if you have been isolated from any physical contact just by reading this you are interacting, to a degree, with me!

You communicate with others in many different ways every day and, to maximise the success of those communications Social Intelligence is a crucial ingredient.

So what is Social Intelligence?

The fantastic Daniel Goleman states, “The ingredients of social intelligence as I see it can be organized into two broad categories: social awareness, what we sense about others—and social facility, what we then do with that awareness” (Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships 2006).

And Karl Albrecht says Social Intelligence “is the ability to get along well with others, and to get them to cooperate with you” (

Both of these definitions give us an insight into Social Intelligence and why it is important that we understand and apply Social Intelligence in our daily lives.

Firstly there is the need to have a sense of other people. How easy is it to get lost in your own world and not really take much notice of the people around you, think about a time when you were so intensely involved in a project that it was only that on your mind when a colleague spoke to you and you barely registered what they said, or, to flip it around, how do you feel when you are trying to talk to someone when it is quite clear their mind is elsewhere?

In this fast-paced, high-tech, digital world it is so easy for us to become distracted from interpersonal contact and our sense of others around us. Take a look around your local coffee shop and count how many people are more focused on their mobile devices than with the people they are sitting with?

So the first thing to do in order to develop and hone your Social Intelligence is to begin to become more aware of those you are interacting with. By simply giving someone your full attention you make them feel that you are interested in them and you are able to get feedback, both verbal and non-verbal, from them that allows you to adjust your message appropriately.

When we can develop our social awareness we can then move toward facility – what we do with that awareness, and get people to cooperate with us. Successful cooperation is a situation where both parties get what they want, a win-win outcome.

I have known plenty of salespeople whose sole aim is to get their customers to buy something and they will use every weapon in their arsenal to get that sale. However sometimes even though they get a sale at that point, overall they have lost out because they have probably put the customer off coming back again. The good salesman achieves that sale by using Social Intelligence and being aware of what the customer really wants, facilitating the customer’s choice and has a customer who leaves happy with what they have purchased and happy with the service they received, increasing the likelihood that the customer will return in the future.

Similarly the good manager will use their social awareness during interviews and supervisory meetings with employees and ensure that there is a win-win situation where the manager gets the employee to understand what the business needs of them and the employee leaves enthused to achieve that.

This is a simplistic overview of Social Intelligence, but Social Intelligence is a crucial part of success in human interaction that achieves long term success both in business and personal life. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Who Are You - No Who Are You Really?

How many profiles of you are there out there?

Social Media profiles, website profiles, C.V./Resumes, company profiles etc.
Probably quite a few nowadays but how many truly reflect the real you?
That is not to say those profiles are lies but they are all designed for a purpose and written for the platform they are placed on. They are usually extremely brief and do not fully explore the person that is you.

Yet honestly reflecting on ourselves and our abilities can help us improve our lives as we identify areas we can grow and question ourselves on our beliefs to break unhelpful beliefs.

For example, personally, having had considerably more positive than negative feedback on my writing I will state that I am good at it, having started with the school newsletter writing is a passion that has always been buried within me, but is it my best quality? I can also claim to be a specialist in communication having studied it extensively and spent most of my working life in customer facing roles.

Yet, in reality, what I truly think I am best at is helping others. I have informally and formally coached many people through their NVQs or other qualifications, I have supported people through personal and professional problems. It is why I hugely enjoy training others and why I have also tended to drift into roles that involve helping others in some way. I am a person who will patiently question and prompt to aid learning rather than someone who gets frustrated and says “I’ll just do it myself”

However, to me, this quality has been a double edged sword. Frustratingly I often seem to be better at helping others than helping myself and, occasionally, people coming to me for help feels like a burden more than a pleasure, because of this it means I am probably less likely to promote what is probably the best quality I have!

Yet by recognising the issues there I can begin to break the shackles and start to move forward with the recognition the, perhaps, the best way to help myself is to really embrace my ability to help others.

The reality of life is that we always try to present a certain image dependent on the situation we are in at that moment. Yet it is vitally important to our own well-being that we can be grounded.

Now, it would be wrong to say that this sort of self-reflection is easy. Remember the first time you heard your voice played back to you and how odd it seemed? How we see ourselves is not always the way others see us and although the voice thing has a physiological reason there are psychological elements involved which are probably best shown in issues with body image etc.

 Yet, short of going to a professional in such matters, we can do some of the work ourselves, we can talk to those close to others and ask them what they would describe as our best qualities and then reflect on the reasons why people would say that. We can also reflect on where we have been successful in the past but doing this honestly recognising that being successful is not always associated with a sense of achievement. We could have easily excelled at doing something but we felt, at the time, that achieving that success was hard work and not a success worth celebrating. 

What was it you did to make that success and how many times have you done something similar to achieve results.

If we want to improve our lives, our income or abilities etc. we need to reflect and be honest to ourselves about what we are good at and where we need to improve.

Yes, we will sell ourselves in different ways to different audiences but trying to achieve that grounded sense of self allows us to add an air of honesty to those profiles and allows us to grow further.