I recently received the following email from a lawyer in the United States. She is highly educated (2 postgraduate degrees), multi-lingual (speaks 5 languages) and a very intelligent woman.
Hi Lakeshia. May I ask you a question as to the article you posted about listeners? So, I am constantly running into people at schools, workplace and etc. who are boosting their egos at my expense. And being a very sensitive person, I usually just get quiet very soon into a conversation where I am constantly interrupted, and then just down my entire self altogether. I believe this is not good for me long term, especially health wise. Would you mind sharing some basic techniques as to how to manage these situations? Thank you.
To answer your question, you are correct. This situation is not good for you personally or professionally.
Communication is a two-way process. If you are not allowed to share your perspective, communication is not happening. People are talking at you and you are allowing it.
Know this, what you allow will continue.
So, a huge step towards improving your communication skills, either at work or in your personal life, is to establish a set of boundaries and then to inform others about how you wish to be treated going forward.
An example of some boundaries might be:
- People cannot interrupt me when I am speaking.
- People cannot raise their voice or yell at me.
- People cannot ignore me.
Regarding these boundaries, you will have to re-educate and retrain people. To do so, you can use this powerful 4 Step Communication Model.
In order for this to work, you must use a neutral tone of voice for all four steps. No anger or sarcasm. You must remain completely calm and speak as if you were stating a simple fact like, “The grass is green.”
Here is the 4 Step Communication Model:
1. Inform. “Do you realize you keep interrupting me?”
2. Request. “I ask that you allow me to finish and not interrupt me again.”
If the behavior continues:
3. Insist. “I insist you stop interrupting me.”
4. Leave. If the person continues to interrupt, simply walk away.
This may seem like a huge step but eventually, people will understand that you require different behavior from them, effective immediately.
There is another powerful technique that works very well.
Stop asking questions. Use statements instead.
For example, when you go into a meeting, avoid asking questions and instead convert everything into a statement.
Instead of asking, “Which project would you like me to start on next?” say, “Tell me the project you want me to start next.”
Unfortunately, questions can be associated with ignorance. The fact is, you may be genuinely ignorant of some of the facts and details you actually need to perform your work effectively. That said, others can misconstrue a lack of information as your being ignorant and judge you harshly for it. Ridiculous I know. But believe me, it happens.
Using statements will allow you to come across as confident and directive.
So, instead of asking, “Can you clarify what you mean? I didn’t understand you.” Convert that question into a directive. “Explain in further detail your thoughts about the second phase of the project.“
Try these suggestions to help you establish some power in your communication with others.
Have you ever considered working with a coach to help you communicate more powerfully? I work with women lawyers just like you to help them do just that.