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How To Communicate With Confidence

Aug 17, 2007
How many times did you wish that you could communicate with confidence when having to get across a "tough message" to a person reporting to you? Or to communicate boldly with your boss or project manager? Depending on the situation, all of us at one time or another want to be able to confidently communicate tough messages to some one else. This is not always easy. Not so much the content of the message but how to communicate effectively.

First step is to establish that what you want to say is positive and constructive and not just plain critical of the actions taken by the person.

Normally a tough message has to be given under not so positive circumstances. The first reaction normally is to tell the person that something was not delivered well. Important point here is to appreciate what is the right way it should have been done so that you can provide feedback to the person on how the job or activity could have been done differently to achieve better results.

Remember always that shouting down and berating someone is just not going to help. That may be the most natural first reaction but is it going to help better results the next time? As Stephen Covey said "Start with end in mind". If what you want is a better outcome the next time, then communicate with confidence on how the person can do better and differently the next time.

Once you have thought through and know the message you want to deliver, then timing of delivery is next in importance. Feedback especially on work not well done must be provided as soon as possible. If not, the person will carry on doing things as usual thinking that it the right way. Waiting for the person's performance evaluation is too late to help in the outcome of the activity. It also does not give an opportunity for the person to make a performance improvement.

Next tip is on how you communicate your tough message with confidence.

You will weaken your position tremendously if you started first by giving feedback. Asking the person to assess the situation and the actions taken gives the person an opportunity to give his or her side of the story. By not starting first, you do not put the other person in the defensive. More important is that you may find that there are valid reasons for what happened, in which case a lecture is the last thing that the person deserves.

Guide the person along using the desired end result as a guide to helping decide how the job should have been done. Only then should you give your feedback on areas that could do with improvement, if this has not already been covered yet.

Next important point is to remember to focus and be specific. Saying things like "the way you address issues with customers is not right" will not help. You need to be specific. "When handling a customer problem, first get a clear description of the problem" is something that the person can act on.

Once you sit down for a feedback session, be careful not to use this as a session to unload all previous issues. There is a great danger that once you start giving feedback, you get comfortable doing it now that you have started, and there will be a tendency to carry on. Consciously be aware of this tendency. Stop once you have passed the message.

Focusing on action plans are great as they help both you and the person you are talking with. It helps you to remain focused on identifying actions. When the discussion is done, the other person actually has action items that they can work on, instead of worrying about how to handle the situation.

The chances are this person will go away thinking how helpful and thoughtful you are.

Point to note is that whether you are the boss or the subordinate, the above tips help when you need to communicate with confidence.

By focusing on the end result, all discussion is centered around the end result and the actions that are required to make it successful. This takes away the sensitivity of criticizing the other person. It is not the person, it is the action that is being discussed.

To communicate tough messages with confidence, the main rule is to separate the situation from the person. The end result desired and the required actions are what you are focusing on. On this basis, provide feedback as soon as possible, giving the person an opportunity to improve based on this.

Feedback is best when it results on in a mutually agreed upon actions. Important point is to also praise and give positive feedback also and as soon as possible. The positive reinforcement can provide great results.

The nicest outcome of communicating tough messages with confidence is when you see the other person improving and producing good results. It is a great feeling. Better than this is when they choose to come back and tell you how much they appreciated the guidance that you provided.

It may seem difficult and feel uncomfortable to do it this way. Do not let that deter you. Next time you need to communicate a tough message, follow these steps and see the results that you get.
About the Author
Regina Maniam has for many years managed people and worked on projects where communicating with confidence is crucial. Check out this website for more information and articles on this subject.
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