4 strategies to create more productive dialogue with your team

Last month I wrote a blog post about about how to not yell at your relatives during holiday dinners.

Now I’m going to show you how to use those same techniques to resolve conflicts and improve communication at work.

Below are 4 communication strategies I wish were included in the employee handbook.

1. ACKNOWLEDGE AND VALIDATE

Imagine this scene:

Your Account Manager comes to your desk at 12:30pm to check on the deck that was due at noon. It’s not done and It’s pretty clear that that you’re not going to make the 3pm client deadline.

Account Manager says: “It’s late. This was supposed to be finished at noon.”

You answer: “We didn’t have enough time and we can’t show it because it’s not approved ”

An argument ensues.

Sound familiar? I’ve been in this exact situation numerous times.

Imagine if you instead answered: “It makes sense you’re nervous because clients look to you when things are late.”

2. PREPARE FOR THE TOUGH QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE

If you anticipate that your teammates or your boss are going to ask tough questions, prep for them ahead of time.

Here are few questions that often come up at the end of a presentation:

How are you going to build that?

We love it, can we see the next round tomorrow?

We hate it, can we see 6 more options tomorrow?

How much does it cost?

Plan out your answers ahead of time. If the project is going to cost 5 million dollars and the budget is 2 million you might want to have a few bullet points prepared about why it’s worth the extra investment. And if 5 million doesn’t run off your tongue easily, practice it a few times out loud.

3. REFRAME THE SITUATION

If you go into a presentation or a meeting thinking it’s going to be terrible, chances are good that it will feel like a waste of your time. But if you think of those meetings as an opportunity to show off your best skills, get creative, and collectively brainstorm, it might just be more fun (and make your whole team look good).

Designers, your account or project manager is not asking you how it’s going because they want to drive you nuts. There’s a lot of business on the line and they have clients breathing down their neck. Think about how you can help them do their job better and the information you would want in their shoes.

And Project managers, your designers aren’t ignoring you because they are ignoring your project. They’re working on it, along with the 10 other projects on their list. How can you help them prioritize?

4. USE I STATEMENTS

When you feel yourself getting defensive, try to steer clear of accusations like “You’re stressing me out" and use this formula:

You make me feel ________________(emotion) when you __________________ (do this action).

Going back to the example I presented in Tip #1, this might sound like:

"You make me feel nervous when the deck is only 30% done and it’s due tomorrow."

It removes some of the finger pointing and allows all parties to take responsibility for how they’re feeling.

Try putting these into action over the next week and let me know if you develop magical powers for diffusing arguments at work.

And because the holiday season is upon us, if you want a refresher on how to not yell at your relatives during family gatherings, check out my previous blog post below.

Madeline Schwarz