Facilitator Journal | Issue #0479, March 1, 2011
Most of us are notorious for delivering only partial truths in our
communications. It's not that we're intentionally trying to mislead
people, it's just that we're not always conscious of the what the
whole message is we're trying to convey, or we're in too big of a
hurry to think through all that we're trying to say. In this article,
Deliver the Whole Message, we look at a simple formula
to help you communicate completely. Taking these simple steps will
not only assure you say all you meant to say, but will likely get
you what you want in a more peaceful fashion from others.
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Deliver the Whole Message
Four questions to help you communicate
It seems that according to Richard Maybury of Peak Performance Group,
"The English language is built on polar terms. What are
the midpoints when you try to place a term between good and bad, generous and stingy, polite and rude, success and failure?"
In my experience it seems that groups do tend to polarize around any given
point of controversy, and though I hadn't considered that our language
might be contributing to that, I can surely see how it could. I know personally
that whenever someone speaks in absolutes, I feel a natural desire to
counteract that view to move perspectives back to center, and I notice
others tend to do the same.
What Comprises a "Whole Message?
Burt Albert, in his book, Fat Free Meetings, tells us that
a whole message consists of four types of statements, or parts,
delivered in this sequence:
- Observation (statements of fact)
- Thoughts (inferences/conclusions
Burt goes on to suggest
that if a sender omits any one of these four elements in delivering their
message--especially one dealing with an interpersonal, potentially volatile
topic--the receiver may become confused, unconvinced, irritated, or alienated.
And in a frenetic business world, where shorthand is often spoken, the
likelihood of omission is significant.
Here's an example of a message fragment, commonly used in our business
world delivered by Bill to Joe:
Well Joe, it look like we're not going to make that WInston
complete way of expressing that message using all four of the above elements
might go something like this:
Joe, around 8:30 this morning I noticed two of the three people working
on the WInston Report head off to assist another customer on the other
side of town for what sounded like an all-morning affair. According to
our schedule, we need a first draft of that report to the customer by
this friday and yesterday, when you showed me the report, it was barely
halfway done. (Observation) Based on our past performance with Winston,
if he doesn't get the report by this Friday, as promised (Thought/Inference),
I'm afraid we'll lose his follow on project which will amount to nearly
$1M in annual revenue. (Feeling) I made a promise to him that we'd get
this to him on time and with high quality, and you agreed to agreed to
this schedule. I really want us to succeed on this project and earn his
message, Joe is not attacked personally. Bill simply states what he saw,
what he inferred, and how these inputs affect how he feels and what he
needs. With this complete information, Joe is far more likely to accommodate
In your groups, you might want to post the following four questions for
participants to consider whenever they have a difficult concern to convey
to someone else in the room. Encourage them to use this approach in all
their challenging communications in the workplace. Though it may take
a little longer to communicate the "whole" message, it's apt
to save a lot of time in the way of hurt feelings, misunderstandings,
and missed deadlines.
facts do you know based on what you actually saw, heard, or read?
inferences or conclusions do you draw from the facts?
do the inferences or conclusions make you feel (without blaming or judging
needs do you now have (without blaming or judging) because of the information
you related above?
Add Your Comments
Use the four questions above to deliver a difficult message to someone
this week. And/or offer this approach to your clients or coworkers and
encourage them to use it in their next meeting?Please click on the Add Your Comments and tell us about it.
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