Unpleasant or maybe not-so-pleasant…

Saying what you have to say with empathy, can change perceptions and responses.

Start with the word unpleasant itself, what does it conjure up in your head? Something negative, something not nice, something that is not tasteful. This the power of words and what you say and how you behave reflects entirely on who you are.

As professionals a lot of times we must communicate through conflict and share news and information or feedback and criticism which are all not exactly happy or positive. There will always be difficult people and difficult situations we will have to navigate and to learn how to deal with it is crucial for many reasons.

While its human nature to want to avoid conflict or stressful situations, a lot of times, it is far better to tackle these situations and address them rather than avoid them and in some cases, there maybe no option but to tackle it.

Intelligent communication is key in difficult situations and this can be learnt as a skill.

There are many stories around how to communicate right and the one that comes to my mind is the one with Akbar and Birbal where Akbar’s dream is interpreted.

The story spoke of how Akbar dreamt that he had lost all his teeth, except one and greatly disturbed by the dream, he summoned the astrologers of his kingdom to interpret it. After a long discussion, they prophesised that his dream meant that all his relatives would meet death before he did. Distressed by this, he went on to narrate the incident to Birbal, at which juncture Birbal said, that it meant that he would live a longer and more fulfilling life than any of his relatives. This version cheered Akbar up and Birbal was rewarded for his intellect.

This also reminds me of the Winston Churchill quote which says,

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”

While communicating, its always better to positively reinforce messages over anything negative. Always plan to communicate as unplanned addressing of conflict often leads to anger or aggression or putting off the other party.

Here are some ways to make these simpler to navigate:

  • Understand the situation entirely and get multiple perspectives
  • Ensure you have all the facts before arriving at conclusions
  • Be sensitive to both the person and situation
  • Do not make it personal
  • Stay empathetic
  • Try and think of how you would have liked to be communicated with in the same context
  • Use words and language and tonality very carefully
  • Make sure to be understanding and encouraging
  • Be assertive and make sure you communicate all that you want to convey
  • Be ready to negotiate
  • Listen, listen, listen
  • Use appropriate verbal and nonverbal cues
  • Stick to the topic in focus and stay calm
  • Frame your feedback and your flow
  • Remember that this is people specific
  • Mould your methods according to the person you are talking to

If you are writing this out, then follow the same as above, but remember to use language that is not to forthright or sharp and be gentle yet firm.

Personally, I am a sensitive person so I remind myself that others around me could be so too so that helps me in the direction I want to take. I have had difficult situations at many points in time and have had to do super tough things and take decisions that will impact lives and I am aware that with the power comes great responsibility and when you need to get something done, there is a sense of justice and equity that guides and helps me when I need them…

Shreya Krishnan
Vice President - Marketing and Communications at Aon India Insurance Brokers
Shreya is a CSR Specialist and Corporate Grooming Consultant. Her interests lie in Activism, Dance, Theatre, Poetry, Blogging, Modelling, Acting. She considers herself an Earth Warrior and is an Event Anchor and Trainer. She is a Pageant Winner and public speaker.

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