Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The 5 C’s of Courageous Dialogue and Communicating Courageously

For many years I have been presenting on the topic of communication, conflict resolution and what I now refer to as Courageous Dialogue.

I learned as a mediator that the word “conflict” is often perceived as negative. And, in many instances, the process of resolving conflict has been perceived as a reprimand instead of an opportunity.

This is why I began to see the need for what I call “courageous dialogue”. By this I mean having the conversation that matter most and are mostly avoided. When I reflect on the many cases that I dealt with as a mediator and also the teams I have provided training to, I have seen the need for five qualities that enrich dialogue.

1. Calm- the moment you react to the other person’s emotions, get caught up in their reactions, or communicate in a way that is emotional, the state of calm is jeopardized. The more anxious people feel in a conversation, the more anxious the dialogue becomes. To reduce the risk of saying or doing things that you regret later and have to do a mulligan (the re-do), stay calm, remain focused on the issue at hand and remain present in the conversation instead of drifting into your internal chatter.

2. Clear- the more clear you are, the more effective the dialogue. Often people make assumptions that the other individual will (or should) know what you are trying to say. The reality is that this is not true in most cases. Assuming usually causes disappointment and frustration. Speak clearly. Check for clarification. A great way to be clear is to practice first. When you write down what it is you wish to convey then practice it (in front of a mirror) you will see what the other person will see the next day or when you have the conversation. You will notice when you become uncomfortable or emotional. When you stammer for words, and when you are clear. When you practice several times, you do yourself a big favour. We’ve all experienced ‘brain freeze’ before (you know what you want to say and in the moment/conversation you can’t find the words), well practicing can really help here. When you practice, you lock your points into your brain and under stress and discomfort your brain will more easily find the words, because you have practiced them time and time again. Here’s the great news-- practicing doesn’t just help create more clarity, it also helps with confidence.

3. Confidence- practicing helps you be more confident. Another reason confidence is important is that people find it easier to listen when the message is clear and confidently presented.

4. Concise- under stress and in uncomfortable situations many people are plagued by ‘run on’ communication. Other than stopping to breathe, the conversation is one way and the listener almost feels like he/she is being dumped on. From my experience this results from nervousness, lack of confidence, not having prepared or given thought to the message. People often shut down or zone out when the conversation feels one-sided and run on. Instead, imagine yourself speaking in bullet points. Make a statement and pause instead of running the messages into one another. Allow time for thought and reflection from the other person. Invite them into the conversation.

5. Congruence- mean what you say and say what you mean. Congruence is extremely important. During conflict people are super alert to incongruence and mixed messages and this often ignites other challenges or reasons to keep the conflict alive. When you bring your best version of you to the conversation, and when you are authentic, you are already starting out on the right foot.

When you bring the five C’s into your next dialogue you will find yourself speaking more courageously about the topics that matter most and are mostly avoided.

Charmaine Hammond
Best selling author, On Toby’s Terms, Bounce Forward, Toby the Pet Therapy Dog
Hammond International Inc.
Twitter: hammondgroupbiz
Facebook: Charmaine Hammond

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