Creating the Right Climate for Successful Communication to Occur
An element in communicating successfully, which is often forgotten, is creating the right climate for our conversations. This essentially involves spending time working out what you want to say and ensuring that you say it in the right way, as well as making sure the other person gets to tell you what they’re thinking and feeling. All of these are fundamentally important things, but if we’re not in an environment which feels comfortable our attempt at an effective conversation can be badly damaged.
Creating the right climate can involve a lot of preparation or it might be as simple as taking a quick look up and down the hallway to make sure that your quick ‘corridor conversation’ is not going to be interrupted or overheard by someone else. Making sure that you are in the right frame of mind for the conversation you wish to have is also a good starting point habit to establish. If you’re feeling upset, angry or just off balance it may be a good idea to hold back and wait until you have settled down. By doing this you will avoid the situation where you come on too strongly and get an equal but opposite reaction from the other person.
Because we know its important, proposing marriage (or just moving into the same place together) for example, is a time when a lot of people put a lot of effort into creating the right conversational climate. Dinner, candlelight, a romantic walk in just the right location all help to set the scene for the proposal. Having the same conversation at a race track doesn’t have the same ring to it. That’s not to say that it might not work for some people, but for most people it would not be the place of choice for a proposal. It is therefore this kind of preparatory effort that has to take place in any key communication.
Not surprisingly, trying to have a conversation with someone when they, or you, are ‘somewhere else’ preoccupied with problems or other distracting issues, is not typically a very good idea. To communicate effectively we need to do it at the right time and in a way that gets and holds a person’s attention. The right time is not just when you have a burning need to communicate something, but also when the person you want to talk with is able to hear you and respond to you. The more important the issue, the more we have to ensure that we are communicating at the right time for both parties.
So how do we create the right climate in practical terms?
Before starting a conversation you need to assess the situation. If you’re not sure that it’s the right time or place to have the conversation you should always remember that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask the other person if it’s all-right for you to talk with them. Usually you’ll get a clear answer (positive or negative) and if you don’t, at least it allows you to set up a time and place to meet and talk which suits the both of you. Let’s say it’s OK with the other person but you feel that it’s not the right place to be having the conversation you’d like to have. In such circumstances, it is suggested that it would be a big mistake to carry on. Your feelings of things not being quite right would most likely be picked up by the other person and upset the balance of the whole conversation. If you don’t think the place is right, suggest moving somewhere else – even going for a stroll and talking is better than staying somewhere that doesn’t help the flow of the conversation.
If you try to get a conversation going at the wrong time or in the wrong place there’s a very good chance it won’t achieve what you were after. Getting and holding a person’s attention is usually easier if he or she has some interest in what you want to communicate. “What’s in it for me?” is the question most of us have in our minds somewhere when someone wants to talk with us. At work when people are very busy, they will be more prepared to stop and have a conversation with you if they perceive that what’s in it for them is something which is advantageous or important for them to know. Saying specifically what’s in it for that other person can help you get your message through more easily and quickly. You should therefore think carefully about what’s in it for the other person and look for an opportunity early in the conversation to make this clear to them. If you are just wanting to catch up for a chat and a coffee, you can just say so right up front. That way, you will avoid the other person being annoyed with you for wasting their time if they are really busy and would rather not talk.
So how much time do you need to have an effective conversation? It depends on what you want to talk about. Thinking about what you want to achieve and working out how long it might take can help you decide when a good time to have the conversation might be. Plan to allow enough time to achieve what you want to, but don’t overdo it. Taking an hour to talk about something which should only take a few minutes, won’t win you any friends. If you often take too long to convey your message you might find people ‘ducking for cover’ when they see you coming.