Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Understanding Communication Strategies

Many employees are expected to argue for themselves in order to promote the organization's interests through their own department.

But how do you monitor the strategies these people use to argue for their interests?

You can encourage people to use communicative strategies to resolve conflicts. You can also stress the importance of avoiding contentious strategies that result in division. To do this, considers these points:
  • rules for open communications
  • conflict-resolution methods
  • avoiding contentious strategies.
Rules for open communications
When you hire someone for your department, or when meetings start to get out of hand, you could bring up a series of basic rules for open communication. These are communicative strategies. The following provide more about the elements of open communication:
  • I statements: When discussing your feelings about an emotional situation, use statements such as, "I feel this way when this happens." It's non-accusatory and expresses what you feel.
  • willingness: People on both sides of a disagreement need to indicate their willingness to resolve their differences.
  • listening: Everyone needs to hear the speaker and acknowledge through verbal and nonverbal means that he or she is listening.
  • restating: When it's your turn to speak in reply to what someone else has said, restate what you believe you heard him say. This helps eliminate misunderstandings.
  • agreements: It's also important to point out what interests you have in common with those you disagree with. This sets an optimistic tone for possible agreements.
  • requests: It's divisive to ask someone to stop doing something you don't like; however, it's OK to request a change of behavior, especially if you suggest alternatives.
  • consistency: Be consistent with your verbal and nonverbal message.
  • word choice: Be careful with the words you use when describing negative feelings. Try to choose noninflammatory language and tone down your emotions.
Conflict-resolution methods
There are other strategies you can use, but these strategies should be used as a last-resort tactic, when nothing else has worked. These strategies lie somewhere in between communicative and contentious.

The following provide more about these strategies:
  • Giving in is an acceptable strategy when you won't suffer long-term harm. It can be an effective bargaining chip that lets you move on to a more important point.
  • When it appears that a conflict is about to escalate, it's OK to break off or even give up on trying to resolve it.
  • Avoiding a problem can be OK if time will take care of it. This is a difficult decision to make.
  • In emergencies, when quick and decisive actions must be taken, when you must implement an unpopular decision, or when someone is playing games with you, it is OK to be abrupt.
Avoiding contentious strategies
It is very important to point out to the people in your group what you consider to be contentious strategies. The following provide more about these inappropriate tactics:
  • Sometimes, when people try to become your new best friend, and flatter and compliment you, they may be trying to get you to make a decision against your interests.
  • Inducing guilt is an inappropriate way to get someone to change her mind.
  • Gamesmanship is the use of maneuvers that further your own position over others.
  • Another contentious tactic is the use of threats.
  • Side issue remarks are derogatory comments directed at your opponent.
To resolve a conflict with an employee, it's important to use appropriate communicative strategies and avoid contention. You should show willingness and consistency in resolving a conflict, use I statements and proper word choice, listen to and restate a message, find common ground and request a change of behavior.

If these strategies do not work, you should then use an appropriate last-resort strategy.

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