BRM - Module 7: Powerful communication
The video below is the first lesson in this module, and is part of the Business Relationship Course
The ‘Business Relationship Management Professional’ foundation course
Module 7 – Powerful Communications
Lesson 1 – Communication
Welcome to module 7 lesson 1!
In this lesson we’ll be studying three aspects of powerful communications: the Art of Listening; the Art of Body Language; and the Art of Emotional Intelligence.
I’ll begin by considering the importance of communication for Business Relationship Management.
Ok, you’ve seen the diagram on your screen before. It represents how the business might fail to get the full benefit of the Provider’s capabilities and resources – how value ‘leaks’.
We discussed the barriers that prevent the Provider from fully-aligning its capabilities and resources with the strategy and objectives of the business in learning module 2.
The expression barrier describes the difficulty the Provider faces in understanding exactly what the business strategy and objectives are, and in keeping track of them as they change.
The specification barrier refers to the difficulty of determining just what the Provider should do to support the business. For example, getting the business to set priorities for the Provider.
The implementation barrier includes practical constraints on the Provider’s ability to support the business. For example, the cost and support issues caused by obsolete technologies or a multiplicity of disparate systems.
The contextual barrier includes issues such as organizational culture.
I’m sure you can see that effective communication is essential for overcoming each of these barriers.
Business Relationship Managers need to be highly skilled at communications for at least two reasons that are central to their role.
First, they must be able to manage the expectations and perceptions of their Business Partners. They must ensure that the business understands the contribution that the Provider is making and what extra contribution itcouldmake, and also the limitations and constraints of the Provider.
And secondly, they must communicate to drive business results by overcoming the barriers I spoke about on the last screen.
Okay let’s take a look at the Art of Listening.
Your first reaction might be to ask ‘surely we just open our ears and listen – where’s the art in that?’ And that’s a very common response. Most of us believe that we are effective listeners and we don't think we need to develop our listening skills. The truth is, though, that very few of us do listen effectively.
Most listening takes place in the context of a conversation – we are speakers as well as listeners. We automatically and unconsciously seek to show the other person that we are smart, that we understand what they are telling us, and that we can help them. And this interferes with our listening; we don’t really listen to what they are saying and we don’t pick up the meaning that lies behind the words that they use. Successful listening means not just understanding the information being communicated, but also understanding how the speaker feels about what they’re communicating – the unspoken assumptions and perspectives – their world-view.
Effective listening means actively absorbing the information given to you by a speaker, showing that you are listening and interested in what they are trying to communicate, and providing feedback to the speaker so that they know the message was received as intended.
Research shows that effective listening increases the amount and quality of information you get from the people with whom you communicate; it increases others' trust in you, reduces conflict, and increases your ability to influence and motivate others. Effective listening:
Makes the speaker feel heard and understood—helps build a deeper connection Creates an environment where everyone feels safe to express ideas, opinions, and feelings Saves time by helping to clarify information, and to avoid conflict and misunderstanding Relieves negative emotions when the speaker feels that he or she has been truly heardThe proper use of active listening results in getting people to open up, avoiding misunderstandings, resolving conflict, and building trust.
The BRM Body of Knowledge describes six steps to effective listening. Let’s go through them.
Step 1 is ‘be present’. A face to face meeting is much more effective than telephone or other communication methods. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact (but without 'staring' which can make people uncomfortable!). If you can't be physically with them, it is even more important to 'be present'— give them your full attention, don't be distracted or fall into the contemporary trap of multi-tasking. You may not have the chance to hear what they are trying to communicate again. Even worse, if they sense you are not really listening, you will erode trust and weaken the relationship irreparably. Relax, and focus on the speaker. If you are physically present, show your attentiveness through your body language. Nod or use other gestures to encourage them to continue, show that you are listening and understanding what is being said.
Step 2 is ‘stop talking’. Mark Twain famously said, “If we were meant to talk more than we listen, we would have two mouths and one ear.” Listen to what others are saying, without interrupting them, talking over them or finishing their sentences. Be comfortable with silence. Introverts need time to process their thoughts before they speak—give them that time. Extroverts tend to think out loud to process their thoughts. The first words out of their mouth might not make sense, or convey what they really are trying to say—give them time to get to the point. A pause does not necessarily mean that the speaker has finished. Be patient and let them continue at their own pace. Wait for the speaker to finish their thought before responding or asking clarifying questions. Focus on what the speaker is saying. Try not to think about what you are going to say next.
Step 3 is ‘listen to the tone being used’. Volume and tone both add information to what someone is communicating. Good speakers use volume and tone to shape what they are trying to say.
Step 4 is ‘validate understanding’. If you are unsure what they are really saying, ask clarifying questions. If you think you have understood them, summarize back to them what you think you heard, in your own words, and ask them for confirmation.
Step 5 is ‘empathize’. Try to understand the other person’s point of view and what they are feeling. Let go of preconceived ideas and have an open mind. If the speaker says something that you disagree with, wait and construct your response, but keep an open mind to the views and opinions of others. Always remember that your objective is to build your understanding not to score points.
And the last step, step 6, is ‘listen for the ideas behind the words’. What are they really trying to communicate and why? But don't jump to conclusions about that—validate by asking questions or by communicating back in your own words what you think they really mean.
I made the point earlier that listening takes place in the context of a conversation. Typically the listener will guide the conversation through the use of a series of questions that are intended to prompt the speaker to provide the needed information.
The diagram on your screen shows a pyramid depicting a hierarchy of question power.
An effective listener will frame questions carefully. The least powerful questions are closed-end—those that lead to a yes or no answer. Such answers, though they may be important, convey very little information.
Question power increases as you move to where?, when?, which? and who? questions, and increase still further when you ask how? or what? questions. The most powerful question is why?—a question that can be repeated to delve deeper into a subject and help to surface false assumptions, beliefs, and flawed conclusions.
That’s all I have to say about the Art of Effective Listening. If you want to know more you can go to the BRM Body of Knowledge or one of the many other sources of information about the barriers to effective listening and techniques for overcoming them.
Our next topic is the Art of Body Language.
Communication is not just about the words used; it’s also about the tone of voice and the way words are stressed, and it’s about body language. We all make a lot of use of email for communication but I’m sure that you know perfectly well what a poor tool it is for conveying anything other than the simplest message.
Albert Mehrabian(I have no idea how this should be pronounced – sorry!),a pioneer researcher of body language in the 1950s found that the total impact of a message is:
7% verbal (words only)
38% vocal (including tone of voice, inflection and other sounds)
55% non-verbal (body language)
Body language includes facial expressions, body movement, gestures, eye contact, posture, tone of voice, and even muscle tension and breathing. The sending and receiving of body language signals happens at both conscious and unconscious levels.
Body language is an important component of communication. It encompasses:
How we position our bodies Our physical proximity to other people Facial expressions Eye movement and focus How we touch ourselves and others How our bodies connect with other objects And unconscious bodily functions such as breathing, heartbeat and perspiration
You need to be aware about what your non-verbal cues are saying, and be careful to ensure that your body language is consistent with and emphasizes the verbal message you are trying to convey.
Equally, you need to be aware of what others non-verbal cues are saying—how they shape what they are trying to communicate, or how they are reacting to what you are saying.
You can enhance your ability to communicate effectively by using open body language:
Don’t cross your arms Stand with an open stance Sit on the edge of your seat Maintain eye contact
There are a number of ways you can improve your non-verbal skills. For example:
Practice observing how others use body language can help you learn to better receive and use nonverbal signals Be aware of cultural differences—people from different cultures sometimes use different nonverbal communication Look at nonverbal communication signals collectively—don’t read too much into a single gesture or nonverbal cue Use nonverbal signals that match your words—nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said, not contradict it Adjust your nonverbal signals according to the context Use body language to convey positive feelings Use positive body language to signal confidence—stand tall, shoulders back, smiling, maintaining eye contact, and delivering a firm handshake.You’ll find some other suggestions in your Study Guide.
Include all bullets in Study Guide
That’s all I have to say about the Art of Body Language. Our next topic is the Art of Emotional Intelligence.
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to discern one's own and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while others claim it is an inborn characteristic.
There are a number of models of emotional intelligence, the one illustrated on your screen was developed by Bradberry and Greaves. It shows four skills that comprise Emotional Intelligence:
Self-awareness is the ability to perceive your own emotions as they happen Self-management is the ability to use your awareness of your emotions to direct your behavior Social awareness is the ability to discern other people’s emotions and understand what is going on Relationship management is the ability to use your knowledge of your own and other people’s emotions to manage your interactions.The first two skills are related to personal competence, and the second two are related to social competence.
Emotional Intelligence requires an awareness of what you and others are thinking and feeling as you communicate. For example:
Understand and empathize with what is really troubling other people Understand yourself, including what’s really troubling you and what you really want Stay motivated to understand and empathize with the person you’re interacting with, even if you don’t like them or their message Communicate clearly and effectively, even when delivering negative messages Build strong, trusting, and rewarding relationships, thinking creatively, solve problems, and resolve conflictsYour Study Guide contains some more examples.
When we communicate, we infer things from the messages being conveyed. But I think we all know that if two people are presented with the same set of facts they are liable to draw different conclusions.
The Ladder of Inference, illustrated in the figure on your screen, is a way of understanding the thinking process we typically (and subconsciously!) follow to get from facts to decisions and actions.
The stages of inference are:
I see reality and facts in observable data and through my own experiences. I filter the reality and facts to create a selected reality. I create an interpreted reality by adding my own meanings to the selected reality. I make assumptions about the interpreted reality. I draw conclusions based on my assumptions.Over time, I adopt beliefs about the world around me—these beliefs impact what I observe (step 1), how I select from what I observe (step 2) and how I interpret these facts.
The actions I take are based upon the beliefs I have adopted over time.
It is no wonder that communication is so fraught with misunderstanding and false assumptions! The Ladder of Inference can be used to surface the indisputable facts, the belief systems through which we interpret those facts, and the assumptions we make by challenging ourselves and others to think through these questions:
Are the conclusions valid? What assumptions are we making, why are we making them and are they valid? Why are we drawing these conclusions? Are our conclusions really based on all the facts?And
Why do we believe what we do?Ok, we’re almost finished but before I wrap up this lesson here’s a quiz to check out what you’ve learned
Insert quiz here
Okay, that completes this lesson on communications. We studied the three aspects of powerful communications: the Art of Listening; the Art of Body Language; and the Art of Emotional Intelligence.
You learned that listening is the most important communication skill; that you must be prepared to validate what you think you heard; and that you should demonstrate that you are listening through nonverbal communication.
You learned that you must be aware of both your own emotions and those of the other party in your communications.
And you learned about the ‘ladder of inference’ and the need to make sure that you draw valid conclusions from the facts.
The next lesson is Lesson 2 where we’ll study persuasion and influencing
Move on when you’re ready