Weekly Intention – Critical Communication Skills

02.21.13 | Posted in Weekly Intention

Last week’s Weekly Intention was about Interpersonal Relationships. How’s your progress in recognizing how to improve in the area we focused – people who are different than you? The key word is “different.” Different doesn’t mean wrong, stupid or incapable. It just means different. So many of us see differences and we automatically judge the person incorrectly. But, not UnCommon Leaders! WE move to the head of the lead pack by embracing and learning from those that are different, don’t we?!

Let’s move on to another key component of Interpersonal Relationships and it’s what I call Critical Communications skills. Why Criticial? If you think about it, most of us can relate and communicate with people at a reasonable level when there is nothing major at stake – no promotion, no challenge to your authority or position, or  no major project that if it fails the company is doomed! Things change, and fairly dramatically when the stakes are high. This is when some of us just crumble. We don’t like conflict. Our heart rates go up, our voice becomes shaky and our cogent thoughts and ideas go flying out of the window at that moment the amygdala highjack of your brain takes place! You’ve been there? Yes, so have I and it’s not a great place to be, is it? You realize moments or hours later, how much different the exchange could have been if you had been able to control your emotions and thoughts “in the moment.”

It’s time to introduce a great definition of social and emotional intelligence from my good friend Dr. Laura Belsten, the creator of the S+EIP social and emotional intelligence profile.

  • Social and emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own emotions and those of others, in the moment, and to use that information to manage ourselves and manage our relationships.

This helps to frame our conversation today about Critical Communications. After all, isn’t this about social and emotional intelligence? Yes, and if we can use this definition as our framework going forward for the rest of the WI’s, we have a great tool to help us grow and learn and apply all of the learnings going forward.

Let me introduce a resource at this point since others have taken a very deep dive into this subject with tremendous success. In fact, the results were so great the resource has sold well over a million copies and been translated into numerous foreign languages and spawned more books and a movement around critical communications. The resource is the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when the stakes are high by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. First published in 2002, this book has become a staple in the tool box of a lot of coaches and leaders that I know. For every client that I coach, this is one of three mandatory books they read and we apply the principles to help them become UnCommon Leaders.

Rather than try to encapsulate over 200 pages here, let’s look at a basic framework for beginning the learning and application of critical communications skills. Then, get the book and take the advice I give my coaching clients. Read the book, find opportunities to practice and apply the learning and keep doing that over and over until you get really good at it, and it becomes a talent of yours that you don’t have to think about anymore!

From the book the authors outline three questions that can help you drive toward reaching a higher level of communications when the stakes become high:

1)    What do I REALLY want for myself right now?

2)    What do I REALLY want for others right now?

3)    What do I REALLY want for the relationship?

Is that easy to do when your emotions have kicked in and all you really want to do is run, yell or pack up your things and quit working for the person you think has just turned into a jerk? No, but go back to our definition of social and emotional intelligence and focus on that as your guiding light for how you want to live out each day in order to have the life you dream about and become an UnCommon Leader! And, I believe that if you were to focus on only this WI for the next year you would move your leadership development and skills to the top. This one area is the one that derails so many people!

There is another key component that the authors of the book address and it may be the most important element. And, it ties into the model and definition of an UnCommon Leader. They suggest you Start With The Heart and who’s heart should you start with? Yours! Not your spouse’s, not your boss’s, not your aggravating neighbor’s, but yours and yours alone. As I’ve written in another blog, it’s so easy to cast stones at others and point the fingers at how incompetent, wrong or ignorant someone else is. But, I’ve realized that most of the time when I’m pointing at them with my 1 finger, there truly are 3 fingers pointing back at me. Let’s stop trying to fix others and commit to work on ourselves first and foremost. And, you know what else I’m feeling compelled to say? Be kind to yourself too. Yes, we all have tons of things we could do better or have done wrong. But, don’t start with a personal beat down. Focus on the end game – becoming the best version of who God made you to be and taking full responsibility for everything that you do. Like the blog this week – take responsibility – NO EXCUSES – eye on the goal and ……

Onward & Upward!

Ed Chaffin

Besides the book referenced above, here’s a link to Dr. Belsten’s website and more information about the S+EIP.




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