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Communication Skills Articles
  Agreeable Disagreeing
Al Borowski, MEd, CSP, PP

Supervisors, managers, and executives increase their value and credibility when they keep their messages, comments and responses positive.

One word that should become part of every leader’s vocabulary is the word, "yes." For example, if one of your employees says to you, "Thank you for those insights. I can use them at work and in my personal life. I know I can apply this in my relationships with my husband and my children."

The next word you say should be, "yes." "Yes, I think you've hit upon something there."

Positive affirmations not only verify the importance of your message, but bring practical application to other employees who might be in earshot. Remember the E. F. Hutton commercial? Everyone else around that person hears a positive message coming from one of their peers.

Saying "Yes" to employees’ comments shows that you care about your employees, you value their opinions and insights, and you welcome their input. This all helps build the rapport necessary for effective communication.

But what happens if one of your employees disagrees with you? This becomes a great opportunity for you to try build rapport and a relationship with that person even though you don't agree. It also gives you a second chance to discuss your side of the issue without a debate or hard feelings.

I use a technique I call Reflect -- Respect -- Respond. For example, if an employee were to say to you, "I don't think this would work in my situation." Rather than engaging in a debate or trying to sell that person on your idea, repeat what you heard to that person. "You don't think that would work in your situation." That's the Reflecting part. You have proven to the employees that you were listening. And, this shows that you value them and that their input is important.

After Reflecting what the person says, use the Respect component. Rather than immediately defending your position or putting that person on the defensive, validate what that person has said. Let the employee know his or her feelings or thoughts are not unknown or unreasonable. You could say something like, "Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I've talked with others who felt the same way. They didn't feel comfortable with these ideas either."

The most important part of the Respecting technique is that you are sincere with the comment. This sincerity comes from empathy for your employees. If you are not sincere when you use the Respecting component, you can do more harm than good.

Then your Response could then be, "Indeed, I have had many of those same people come back to let me know they tried the techniques and that they worked."

One word you should avoid with the Reflect -- Respect -- Respond technique is, "but." As soon as you use the word, "but," you cancel the message you said before the "but."

For example, if you Reflected and Respected properly and then said, "But, I have had many of those same people come back to let me know they tried the techniques and that they worked," you have negated their feelings. "But" in this instance, becomes as powerful in a negative sense as the word, "No." Simply drop the word, "but."

Reflect -- Respect -- Respond. This three step strategy, when practiced, puts a positive spin on a negative situation and sometimes helps you win more friends and gain a lot of respect.

Yes, please spread the word. To reprint this article in your Ezine, Newsletter or magazine click here for Reprint Guidelines.

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Al Borowski, MEd, CSP, PP
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Professor of Positivity

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