Being able to communicate for clarity is an art…even if we are speaking in the same language it’s often hard to get clear with another person.
My dear client Kellie called me, and I could tell she was choking back tears. I waited to see what the dilemma was. It was a big one. She was ready to quit the job because of an argument with her boss, that she said was ‘the last straw.’
I have also coached her boss, a gentleman who was almost always gracious and positive. So, I wondered, what could have set her over the edge.
Bottom line, it was a misunderstanding of choice of words and it really shook her to the core…and if she had just been able to communicate for clarity the drama could have been avoided.
Her boss was frustrated because she took time off without checking with him and no one knew where she was and could not get her on her cell phone.
He challenged Kellie and told her he thought she was being irresponsible and yes, he was angry. It became a ‘he said, she said,’ since she had told HR she was leaving to take a sick friend to the emergency room.
HR simply noted this, assumed she had told her boss and thought the matter was closed.
Kellie did the right thing and yet, was reprimanded. It was when her boss said she had been irresponsible that she flew off the handle. It was a word that had followed her throughout her teen years when she was caring for a sick mother and yet told no one when she left school early.
So, here she was, helping a friend and getting a sucker punch from her boss.
What could have been done differently? Could have either one of them effectively communicate for clarity and avoid this mess?
Mr. Boss could have asked what happened before he launched his attack. He didn’t take the time to get clear. And Kellie could have stopped him right at the start of his angry outburst and clearly told him what course she had taken.
Why do we hold back?
Why do so many of us crumble rather than go for deeper clarity? Why is there so much confusion when even just two people talk to each other, and often these are two people who want to get along?
More questions and less finger-pointing would work. AND sometimes we need to ask a question, listen to the answer and then…. Clarify that we are on the same page.
Kinda like the man who was stopped for driving a bit too fast:
- A man was driving down the road when a policeman stopped him. The officer looked in the back of the man’s truck and said “Why are there penguins in your truck?
- The man replied, “These are my penguins, they belong to me.”
- The policeman said, “You need to take them to the zoo.”
- The next day, the officer saw the same guy driving down the road. He pulled him over again since he saw the penguins were still in the back of the truck, but they were wearing sunglasses this time.
- “I thought I told you to take the penguins to the zoo.” The officer said.
- “I did” the man replied. “And today I’m taking them to the beach!”
Clarity! Just one or two extra questions can save a lot of grief.
And Kellie with her boss? They have a new practice when they meet to make sure they are clear with each other by asking each other to repeat back what needs to be done, state their intentions, and offer responses that are short, to the point and yup.. very clear.
I will be covering, in detail, how to communicate for clarity in my on-line GUTSY WOMEN LEADERS program. This may be a good time to set up a call with me for further details.