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Work Communication

Effective work communication is key to happy employees and customers. Many things drive our work communication:

  • External issues-did you have a fight with a significant person prior to work?
  • Is your level of stress high?
  • Did you get enough sleep?
  • Are you comfortable in your work environment (are you liked, do you feel safe, do you feel competent in your job, etc. ?)

Not everyone knows how to communicate effectively or they may be focused on other things. Sometimes people will take things out on coworkers instead of dealing with the real source of frustration.

Here are the most common errors in thinking that add to a communication problems at work:

Over Generalized Thinking: Over Generalized statements are exaggerations. For example, 'He NEVER considers my opinion. You ALWAYS interrupt me. She ALWAYS tells me what to do. I have to do ALL the work. I NEVER get a break. EVERYBODY picks on me.' Watch your language for 'never, always, should, everybody, 'I can't stand it and I can't take it anymore.'

Making an Assumption and Running with it: What you assume is only what you assume. Assumptions may or may not be true. There may be other reasons why things happen. Generate multiple reasons why you think something has happened. We tend to go with worst case scenario. Check out your assumption with others to get to the facts of the issue. Ask someone you trust, “this is what I am feeling…Am I on target or have I made assumptions.” Jumping to conclusions is another form of making an assumption and acting on it as if it were true.

Fortune Telling is projecting your assumption on future events based on what happened in the past. Fortune telling is assuming that what happened in the past will happen in the future. When you say, 'I bet that this will happen,' then you are predicting the future. You may or you may not be right.

Focusing on the Other Person's Behavior in the Past not the Present: Some people live so much in the hurts of the past that they do not realize that another person has changed or is trying to change. They keep an old version of the person in their mind. Sometimes people do change, so do an update in your mind about them.

Closed Mind Thinking: 'Don't tell me anything 'I know best for me' kind of thinking.' Stubborn insistence on one's own thinking.

Preoccupation with Right and Wrong and Perceived Injustice: Blaming others is a way of life for some people. If you hear yourself continually saying, 'It's not fair!' then you are focusing on the negative instead of going into problem solving. Much of life really isn't fair! So what? Keeping score of slights from others and dwelling on them creates a climate of hurt and suspicion. (Hey, life frequently is unfair, but focusing on it only makes you more miserable!)

Grudge Holding: is a habit that is hard to break into. People who harbor grudges have deeper issues of mistrust. Grudge holding is a learned behavior that is prevalent in some families. Grudges fan the fire of anger as a way of trying to feel safe by feeling powerful in fantasy. Grudge holding appears to be a way to attempt to control negative situations by retaining the angry feelings. Grudges are a habit of feeling self-righteous and distance one's self instead of dealing with the real problem.

Minimalizing One's Own Contribution to the Problem at hand: Some people belittle the problem saying it is not important. They deny personal understanding and remorse regarding their actions. This way of thinking avoids personal responsibility thus limiting emotional growth.

Always Putting the Blame on Others: For some people, the first reaction to a problem is to find someone to blame. Blaming is a defense mechanism to avoid taking personal responsibility for the situation. The blamer rapidly finds fault in the other person and criticizes them. Trying to find a solution to the problem is much better than looking for someone to blame. Blaming is a pattern in some families that keeps people from becoming closer. People who blame others or situations without taking responsibility for their contribution to the problem never get the sense of satisfaction of growth. By refusing to see their own errors, they lose the opportunity to change the very aspects of themselves that keep them stuck.

Communication Techniques for Handling Conflict:


1. Neutralizing:

We neutralize to take the “sting” out of words; paraphrase what we hear: For example, if someone says: "I can’t stand the people at my work." An example of a neutralized statement: "So, you want to talk about improving your relationship with your co-workers?"

2. Active Listening:

Involves responses that help to establish trust and give people the feeling that they’ve been heard and understood. It may include the following:

  • nodding your head slightly and simply waiting
  • looking at the speaker expectantly
  • a casual remark like "I see," or "uh-huh" or "I see what you mean."
  • reflecting back the speaker's own body posture
  • or simply smiling and showing your interest.

3. “I” Messages:

Take responsibility for your own feelings, informs listener how you feel and the reason why. Suggest solutions. Using the word, "You", places blame, judges, and assumes. When you blame someone else for your feelings they feel attacked and they go into the attack mode.

Example of an "I" message:
"When you consistently interrupt, I feel frustrated."
As opposed to a "You" message:
"When you consistently interrupt, You make me frustrated."

4. Giving Feedback:

When you make non-critical observations about a person's behavior it indicates that you have been paying close attention and trying to understand. Feedback may help to bring feelings into the open and direct attention to problems.

"You seem hurt when you talk of it."
"I've noticed you look at your watch several times. I'm wondering if you're concerned about the time?"
"John seemed pleased with the offer. I'm not sure how you felt about it."

To resolve conflict be more responsive and less judgmental. People are likely to respond to a judgmental person by becoming less spontaneous and more defensive. Avoid words such as "right," "wrong," "good," "bad," or their equivalents. Don't make moralistic statements ("ought" and "should").