How to communicate under pressure (part two)

18 April 2020  |  Rich M

I did not expect to be writing a ‘Part Two’. However, I received some gentle probing on the first one so decided to be responsive and write a follow-up.

A contact of mine, a Managing Director in a large European bank, got in touch with me after reading Part One and said “Great start, but I was hoping for some really slamming top tips!” This is very useful feedback for me. But, it surfaces an important and overlooked point regarding behaviour change or skills development. My reply to him was “You can’t teach someone how to play golf over lunch. Practice is the only way”. That is the reality. If you could improve a skill by reading a blog, it would be great wouldn’t it?

So, I have taken the feedback and decided to share some extra guidance to get myself a bit closer (although perhaps not all the way) to “Really Slamming Top Tips”.

 #3 Think before you speak – How many of your colleagues don’t do this? Intellectually everyone understands the wisdom of thinking before speaking. Behaviourally though, lots of people just don’t do it. Often, people will open their mouth in the hope that as they speak, clarity of message will magically emerge. The consequence of this is usually a message that is longer than it needs to be; a message where the critical information comes out last, not first; or that you end up saying something you wished you hadn’t. The brain works considerably quicker than the mouth: cue the garbled, verbose message.

This problem can be mitigated by installing some thinking time before you respond. Pause. Most people can arrive at a better quality of answer if they have time to think about it first. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Whether you are responding to a question, objection or criticism, thinking before you speak is advisable. Thinking while you speak might get you into trouble. 

#4 A trio of questions – This is a helpful tactic if you are impulsive and find yourself regretting things you’ve said, professionally or personally. It is fundamentally simple. When you feel the impulse to respond quickly, catch the impulse loop and interrupt it with these three quick questions (in your head).

  1. Does this really need to be said?
  2. Does this really need to be said by me?
  3. Does this really need to be said by me now?

Going through that quick calibration sequence usually buys you enough time for the impulse to subside. You can always say it later once you have thought it through.

To conclude, Geoff is right. Perhaps they are not “Really Slamming Top Tips”. There is a limit to how helpful a blog can be when it comes to changing behaviour. As with improving your golf swing though, the true progression lies in some basic tips, practised regularly.