Why Are We Communicating… and How?

Bob Milligan, Learning Edge / Dairy Strategies

Bob Milligan of Learning Edge / Dairy Strategies

When I visit with potential clients or someone considering me for a speaking engagement, I often hear the problem needing to be addressed is communication. Let’s think about communication as a problem. Think about someone with whom you think you have a problem in communication. It is likely you often talk to them and can communicate on many subjects – the weather, sports, etc. The REAL problem likely is that this person is not responding as you would like or not doing what you want him or her to do.

The reality is likely that communication is not what you seek – the objective. Rather you are trying to drive action and he, she, or they are resisting. As we have often concluded, the WHY is crucial. WHY are we communicating. What action, behavior, performance are we seeking.

When we communicate to obtain an action or an outcome, our typical beginning point is to ask ourselves – consciously or unconsciously – how can I direct or convince the person to act, behave, perform, improve. Likely, we will be more effective if we begin by asking why the person is resisting, misbehaving, performing poorly.

It is best to begin by identifying the emotion he or she is feeling? Examples of emotions would include:

  • Frustration: perhaps he or she has been trying without success. A different approach or more training or coaching is needed.
  • Confusion: perhaps he or she lacks clarity on the goal of the action or how to perform the action successfully. Clarify to reduce or eliminate the confusion.
  • Uncertainty: perhaps he or she lacks the confidence to undertake the action. Encouragement, positive feedback, and coaching may be needed.
  • Anger: this will likely occur when he or she believe they have been treated unfairly. We have often talked about employees feeling they have been treated unfairly when we provide negative feedback – a reprimand – when he or she does not accept being at fault.



Once you have identified his or her emotional stage, you can decide how to best proceed – how to proceed with empathy.

Your assignment: identify an employee, partner, or family member who is not acting or performing as you desire – you have a “communication problem.” Try thinking about how they are feeling about your action request. Use that information to design a new, better approach to the situation.

Full Steam Ahead!

Dr. Bob Milligan may be contacted at ph 651 647-0495 and email <rmilligan@trsmith.com>.  This information is taken with permission from his August e-newsletter


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