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This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Delivery

How communication style can make all the difference.

 It's all in the delivery!
You can say very hard things, problematic things, controversial things, to most people without stirring up rancor  if your tone of voice is agreeable.  If your demeanor, that is, your tone of voice, your body language, your volume, and your movements are not aggressive, you are much less likely to provoke a defensive reaction.  Without defensiveness on the part of the other person, you are more likely to be heard.

A side note: Some people have a habit of not listening well to others and reduce their attention to the meta massage and what they determine to be, the main point.  This person scans, rather than attending to detail.  In this situation, what I am proposing might play an even more significant part in the communication process.

(The meta-message refers to the general, overall message, the larger outline, the impression.)

It is an almost stunning experience when you first begin tying this; talk to your friend, or relative, or co-worker about something which you had apprehension about saying.  Your calm, low-key delivery may allow the other person to receive information that you thought would not be possible.

There is a catch:  You can't fake it.  It's remarkable how these automatic feelers we all  have will pick up insincerity.  So, before you go to deliver your difficult message, you have to stop and sort yourself out.  If you are going to have a peaceful tone of voice, you have to be peaceful inside yourself.  Give yourself a chance at success by calming yourself, centering yourself, forming a non-aggressive presentation, and maybe even visualizing the exchange going smoothly.

A book on this subject, Difficult Conversations, how to discuss what matters most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen came highly recommended to me by an esteemed colleague (Ellen Zuker, PhD, psychologist).  So I am passing this on to you although I usually will only recommend books I have read myself.  On that note, a related book is Deborah Tannen's You Just Don't Understand, women and men in conversation.  She is a socio-linguist who did an anthropological study of the differences in the way that women and men use language and communicate.  I think of this as the more scholarly version of the very popular Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, a practical guide for improving communication and getting what you want in your relationship by John Gray, PhD.  I liked his ideas too and many of my clients found his book very readable.  His is one of the few so-called self-help books that I have found to be popular with men.
Most people take in the so-called meta-message.  They tune into the larger picture; they look for cues and clues as to what the speaker is trying to convey.  And they react to what they sense.  If your approach is amenable or low-key or even, let's just say, courteous, you have a better chance of being heard.  I discovered this myself, just by trying it.  And I have observed it in couples counseling and had it reported to me by individual patients again and again.  So, while ideas like this can never be guaranteed, it's worth a try.
Give the gentle delivery a chance.

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