Rather eye-opening before I even got into the book. It’s hard to overstate the importance of communicating well. I am on a constant personal journey to learn how to connect with others more authentically, to listen better, and to express myself more clearly.
Today I am excited to introduce you to someone who is a master teacher on the art of communication. His work has helped me, and I hope you enjoy our discussion.
This is a guest post by Judy Nelson. Coach Judy Nelson has golfed with presidents, been heckled by famous comedians, and researched insurance policies for riding elephants on behalf of Zsa Zsa Gábor—and those were the ordinary days! Her new book, Intentional Leadership debuts in January.
“Tact is an ability to live in the midst of ugliness without getting ugly.” –Debasish Mridha
A tachometer in a car measures the rotation of the crankshaft. A TACT-ometer in a leader measures the rotation of the crankiness or degree of rudeness they reveal and inspire in others. Leaders everywhere would be wise to make sure their TACT-ometer is functioning well—or take it in for a tune-up.
In a manual transmission, the tachometer serves a significant role for the vehicle’s engine maintenance. It helps the driver select an appropriate gear for driving conditions. It denotes the maximum safe range for rotation speeds, which when exceeded are indicated in red. When a driver operates the car while the tachometer reads in the red areas, it’s called redlining the engine. Prolonged extreme redlining in the tachometer may cause less than optimum performance that could cause excessive wear and tear or permanent damage to the vehicle’s engine (And in case you were wondering if I knew all this before, I didn’t. Thank you, Wikipedia.)
A TACT-ometer is a gauge for your mouth. It serves a significant role for your team’s morale maintenance. It helps the speaker select appropriate words for working conditions. It denotes the maximum safe range for lack of tact, which when exceeded leaves the speaker’s recipient red with embarrassment (or rage). When a speaker regularly operates in the red zone, I call it redlining the team. Prolonged extreme tactlessness or extreme tact may cause less than optimum communication and conflict that could cause excessive wear or permanent damage to relationships. (Sadly, I learned this concept through experience, not Wikipedia.)
“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.” –Isaac Newton
I use the Workplace Big 5 Profile 4.0™ Assessments to help my clients assess their performance on the TACT-ometer. The Workplace Big 5 Profile stimulates changes in self-awareness and identifies ways to maximize your natural talents in a manner that works with your natural energy levels.
Some people who score in the 0 to 35 range don’t believe they lack tact. In fact, the harshest person you know may think that he or she is just being direct and even kind because telling the absolute truth is the right thing to do. Who can argue that much of the time telling the absolute truth is the right thing to do?
“Tact is the ability to step on a man’s toes without messing up the shine on his shoes.” –Harry Truman
And who can argue that there are times when it isn’t?
The definition of tact can vary depending on the area where you live. Take, for instance, the different regions of the U.S. In one part of the country, being direct (up to and including the point of being blunt) is not only accepted but also expected. In another region, extreme politeness is the norm. These expectations tend to stay with you even when you leave the area you consider “normal.” When people with different definitions of tact work together, office tension is often the result.
Copyright Judy Nelson, Used by Permission
Knowing your natural tendencies regarding tact could help you to choose more consciously what you say and how you say it—i.e., to manage your mouth strategically. I advise my clients to use I-messages. I-messages create responses that feel less accusatory. They demonstrate more tact when used correctly. Unlike You-messages, (e.g. “you always interrupt” or “why don’t you just…?”) I-messages focus on the feelings of the speaker rather than the person they are addressing. They provide a tactful way to deliver a direct response.
The Right Words Matter
When it comes to how you communicate, let’s face it: The right words matter!
What does it take to land on the New York Times Bestseller’s list nineteen times, with three books hitting the number one spot?
This is the current record of one of my friends, Ken Abraham. Not too long ago, I sat down with Ken to ask him about his phenomenal success. Ken’s specialty is collaborations. He works with celebrities, politicians, sports heroes and others to tell their stories. He writes authentically in their voice, not his own.
I have known Ken for some years and will tell you a few things that he would never say, but they are characteristics that fuel his success.
Ken is what I call a “power listener.”
1. Know that it is all about you.
Too often we listen faintly as we form another question or clever comment in our mind. We wait for the person to breathe so we can get our point in. Learning to listen well, extraordinarily well, has been a long-term goal of mine. I’m not even close to attaining it. Ken is a master.
Despite Ken’s success, he is one of the most humble people I know. That humility seems to work especially well in his work because Ken is more interested in learning about you than in talking about himself.
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” –Doug Larson
2. Are able to communicate what they heard accurately.
Good communication is not about saying something. It’s not about the audience hearing it either. It’s when the listener understands your message and can repeat it back. It’s when that person understands the nuances, the emotion, and the content.
Ken’s ability to do this propels him to the top of the world’s greatest listeners. His writing skills are amazing, but I believe it starts with his unique listening skills. He can only capture an accurate and authentic story because of his listening mastery.
“I think part of my gift..is that I love listening.” –Eric Clapton