Business Communication Skills Can Help with More than Just Business
You won’t hear this at a job interview, but the fact is, there’s a lot of inter-personal emotion mixed into our daily business lives:
- People have trouble accepting feedback.
- People get annoyed with (and are sometimes rude to) their coworkers.
- Personal situations show up at the office. That baseball game your boss’s son lost? The argument a colleague had with their spouse at breakfast? A bad night’s sleep, a worry about the mortgage? They might spill over into your co-worker’s day — and from there, maybe into yours.
No wonder communicating with your business or work colleagues can feel so much like communicating with the people at home: In both settings, people can get on your last nerve!
Whether You’re at Work or at Home, People Can Be Annoying
I’ll bet you’ve noticed that.
I was recently reminded of it during a five-day road trip I took with my husband and our adult daughter, who was visiting us.
The trip was primarily relaxing and fun, but at various moments, I was both annoying to them, and annoyed with them.
To add insult to injury, my annoyance was often triggered by ridiculously petty things that I knew weren’t worth reacting to. (Do I really need to comment on which spot my husband chooses in a parking lot?? Apparently I do, which is embarrassing.)
The funny thing is, the more you care about someone — or the more time you spend with them — the more annoying they can seem. And it’s hard to put the brakes on your reactivity because you have to focus on the annoyance to decide how to handle it.
This is a job for business communication skills!
To Solve a Communications Problem, Start by Defining It
It’s often easy, both at work and at home, to think of what you want to say. But it can be a lot harder to anticipate how your comments are going to land with the person you’re talking to.
That’s why, in speaker coaching sessions, I ask my clients things like:
- Will speaking out help you get what you want?
- Is the other person willing to talk about this problem?
- How can you frame your message in a way that they’ll be able to hear?
During my road trip with Husband and Daughter, I tried to apply that same approach.
The result was The Annoyance Grid, which you can download below.
The Grid will help you think about whether to voice your annoyance or suck it up. (If you’re annoyed with someone at work, there’s a third option, which is to discuss it with your manager.)
Whether You’re Annoyed at Work or at Home, Start by Asking “Whose Problem Is This, Anyway?”
As you’ll see from The Annoyance Grid, there are two possible answers to the “Whose problem is this?” question: The problem is either mine or yours.
- If my reaction seems extreme (I want to scream because you’re taking 30 seconds to choose a parking space), the problem is probably mine. But if your behavior seems extreme (you’re taking 20 minutes to choose a parking space), the problem might be yours.
- If my reaction seems random (I usually think your pink shirt is cute, but today, for some reason, I hate it and “have to” tell you), the problem is probably mine. But if your behavior seems random (you’re usually polite, but you just snapped at me to shut up), the problem might be yours.
- If my reaction is isolated (shared by no one else), the problem is probably mine. But if my reaction is typical (your behavior is annoying lots of other people, too), the problem might be yours.
The Annoyance Grid is Your Guide to Action (and to Knowing When Not to Act!)
Since it’s so easy to blame the other person for what you’re feeling, try to start with a default assumption that the problem might be yours. That won’t always be true, but it’s true often enough that it’s worth keeping an open mind.
What’s your next step? Download The Annoyance Grid... explore the process it suggests at home… and don’t forget to transfer this business communication skill back to the office!