Study the underlying needs of the other person … Why do they or why should they want to communicate with you?
After a hiatus, we return to one of our article streams: The Twelve Tools for Effective Communication. Today’s article focuses on an important and often-overlooked communication skill. That is to engage in the communication process with the goal of first understanding what the other person needs out of their interaction with you. We have already discussed how important effective, deep listening skills are to an effective communicator. Once we are prepared to deeply listen, we can attend to focusing our communication on questions and discussions that are designed to help you quickly gain an understanding of what the other person truly seeks out of their interaction with you. What do they need? How do they perceive that you may be able to help them meet that need?
Even when you are the person approaching another – say to seek assistance with a project or even a smaller task, it is extremely helpful to pause and seek to gain perspective – why should the other person want to help? What do they gain from the interaction? For example, even when approaching a boss to ask them for a favor, such as permission for some leave time, there is something of value for the boss in granting your request. For an effective relationship, working with you in even such a simple interaction should further your boss’s interest in balancing workloads, enhancing your productivity and morale when you are at work, and demonstrating to his or her own superiors that he or she is a person who can work well with subordinates and gain commitment and productivity from the people he or she supervises.
When engaging in an important conversation, spend some time at the outset of the conversation to learn about the person and what they might need from you in return. While you do not have to be dogmatic or rote about your approach, do be prepared to learn from the other by asking them questions along the lines of how can I help you? What do you need from me? How can we help one another?
When these questions are considered, even a simple interaction like asking your boss for leave time, can build an attitude of mutual trust, support and partnership. The relationships built during simple interactions often pay great dividends in later interactions, with the rapport and mutual understanding making it much easier to acquire support in subsequent interactions.