Use Your Words….Know Your Audience. The Importance of Communication.

I have had a lot of opportunity to observe the role of communication and how important it is to perform it correctly, to residents, to leaders and to team members. There are so many different variables in which we communicate daily, and the truth is, I am not going to touch on all of them in this one post. (Or maybe you’ll be lucky and this will turn into a ranting sort of post and you’ll get all my experience wisdom thrown at you).

Let’s go…..

You have your different channels of communication to choose from…face to face, email, telephone, video conferencing, texting. You have your communication barriers to consider…….filtering, selective perception, information overload (ugh, stop talking already), emotional disconnects, lack of credibility, semantics/jargon, poor listening skills. You have your audience to consider….what’s that saying?? “KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE”.

Let’s begin with communicating during a problem, issue, crisis. It’s important to learn how to communicate during these volatile times with less emotion, to communicate facts diplomatically and eloquently. This provides the opportunity for those receiving the information to make educated decisions quickly and not knee jerk reactions to hearing/feeling/reacting to emotions. (Yes, you are right, it is also the receiver’s job to decipher emotion vs facts and to weed through that. Make it easier for them. The messenger is vital to the role of communication.)

TIPS: If time is not of importance, step away for a bit to calm down, make a list, or write/journal your emotions out, re-evaluate the list/writing after emotions have settled, (moment of truth here, being emotional about something is good, it means you’re passionate, but, it’s not a good communication skill…put that passion and emotion to work FOR you and write it all down, then look at it later and formulate your points in an eloquent manner)

Now, as much as I say remove emotion, this is specific to a crisis, an employee issue, resident issue…..those sort of moments where communicating facts are key. The truth is, a reason why we are good at what we do is because of PASSION, and passion leads to emotion. There will be moments (a lot of them), where you’ll need to reflect and ask yourself: “Am I dying on this hill?” Meaning, how willing are you to fight a fight for something? Advocacy for anything is important, but, you have to be careful how you promote, how you bring solutions/disagreements/frustrations to the table. Disagreement is good, but if you disagree, do you have a recommended solution? Frustrations are the fires that ignite change, but are you fighting just to fight? BE DIPLOMATIC & CHILL in your delivery.

Present your ideas and innovation with enthusiasm and conviction. Bring the benefits and solutions to the table. Positive impact is important, being persuasive is important.

Impression matters in all types of communication, make a good one, it’s going to make your voice heard a bit better. The receiver is experiencing you as a communicator. Say that again, slowly….. You are an experience for them. What is that experience like? If you HEARD yourself, if you READ your email, what would YOU receive from the message? I have looked back on moments of my career and known that someone’s experience with me, due to ineffective communication, was not a good one.

Another good piece of advice I have written about before is this: silence is golden. It is literally the most sound advice I have ever received. And truthfully, it was not given directly TO me. Shelly Moore, a previous regional of mine would walk into a room, speak and just stop talking. She did it with me, other managers, other team members, residents. It was the oddest thing to witness once you realized what was happening. She would say what needed to be said and shut up. Then the other individual in the conversation was expected to respond. Whether to a question, to a prompt, or just speak. You’d be amazed at what people will say when you’re quiet and shut up long enough to hear them speak. People speak to fill a silence, it’s a nervous tick, don’t be that person. Instead be the person receiving allllllllll the messages others have to say.

The above is a piece of advice that goes a long way when you’re in that weird predicament of having to deliver some version of bad news, and you know it’s not what the receiver wants to hear. Say it. Deliver the news, say what needs to be said and stop talking. Filling the void with nervous apologies and nervous chatter is not beneficial to the receiver and the nervous chatter has a tendency to present nervous energy. Eh.

Remember that you should not be communicating in a way that YOU hear things, but in a way that OTHERS hear things. Be mindful and respectful of how the receiver best HEARS information. Just because you digest and HEAR information in the channel of text best, does not mean that everyone else around you does as well. (Example: My assistant manager prefers to talk face to face, if possible, in order to interpret facts, emotions, tone and body language. Because of this, I do my best to ensure that I take the time to communicate with him that way, even if it may not be my own preferred channel of communication.)

Overcommunicating mitigates resident complaints and good communication helps diffuse concerns. Overcommunicating has likely saved me more than anything else in the world of property management. With my team. With my residents. ….maybe a little with leadership….there’s a balance there……

When it comes to communicating with others (residents/customers/team members/vendors), COMPASSION is so important. Communicate with a sense of compassion and empathy. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What are they angry about? Do they feel heard? Are there other frustrations in the background causing a barrier referred to as “noise”?

ARE YOU ANSWERING THEIR QUESTIONS? This is a big lesson learned for me and there are several areas where questions don’t get answered:

(1) Being ambiguous is cool for a bit, but the honest truth is, if you don’t have an answer, say you don’t have an answer and that you’re working on finding one. (In crises, highest priority should be communicating to instill trust with your team/customer)

People aren’t happy when the unexpected happens, but they are even unhappier if they find out you tried to hide it.” Bruce Patton, partner at Vantage Partners, LLC

(2) Did you skim the email while multi-tasking?? (Only to go back and re-read it AFTER you sent the response and realize you missed answering questions. I know this one from LOTS of experience.) STOP. PAUSE. READ. Read it twice if you have to. Read it and then walk away and circle back. Read it. Start a response. Save a draft and read your draft more than one time before hitting send. (Insider tip: have someone else read it before sending it if there is not sensitive info in it).

(3) Did you read the email and REACT because you felt you had to defend you or your team’s actions/decisions? Nah. Stop. If you feel some sort of way after you read an email, I’d suggest stepping away from the keyboard quickly. And by “feel some sort of way”, you know I’m not referring to compassion or empathy. If you’re feeling defensive, angry, frustrated or any negative emotion, walk away. If you send “per our prior conversation” or “per the attached email” or any semblance of those words trust is lost. (Another lesson learned personally………those knee jerk reactions never worked out for me in the past….check out my prior blog, “Red Light, Green Light and Knee Jerk Reactions”).

I hope I didn’t rant and I hope that I communicated in writing to YOU, my audience, in such a way that there was some positive impact made. I want to leave you with some tidbits and small take-aways:

*Silence is golden – say what you need to say and stop talking

*Separate fact from fiction – write it down

*Intent versus Perception – what you meant to say is not what is heard

*Use Your Words – speak eloquently and diplomatically

*Know Your Audience – choose your channel and your message based on the receiver

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