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Communicating in a Business Environment. October 19, 2011 Facilitator: Joelle LaGuerre. Objectives. Review the basics of verbal communication Assess your own communication style and habits and understand how it impacts your interactions Understand the importance of communicating assertively

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communicating in a business environment

Communicating in a Business Environment

October 19, 2011

Facilitator: Joelle LaGuerre

  • Review the basics of verbal communication
  • Assess your own communication style and habits and understand how it impacts your interactions
  • Understand the importance of communicating assertively
  • Learn tips for presenting and asserting yourself more effectively, especially in challenging situations

What does successful communication

look like?


components of successful communication
Components of successful communication
  • Confidence
  • Clarity
  • Tact
  • Diplomacy
  • Credibility
  • Persuasion
  • Mutual understanding


communication basics1
Communication basics



communication basics2
Communication basics

Producing and interpreting messages


communication basics3
Communication basics
  • Face-to-face
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Text
  • Instant message


choosing the right channel
Choosing the right channel

Every communication situation necessitates an appropriate channel choice. As you choose a channel for certain communication events, think about the purpose of the communication and the consequences of that choice.


communication basics4
Communication Basics



types of noise
Types of noise
  • Physical - External interference
  • Personal - Cognitive or mental interference, ongoing thoughts in our mind
  • Semantic - Speaker and listener assigning different meanings


the three v s
The Three V’s

One way to ensure successful communication others is to reduce the noise related to three V’s:

  • Visual
  • Vocal
  • Verbal


  • Eye contact
  • Facial expression
  • Body language
  • Proximics


  • Speed of voice
  • Volume
  • Inflection
  • Tone of voice






Verbals are the most obvious aspect of communi- cation – the actual words you use. Your choice of words determines how your communication will come across to others.

What kinds of emotions and/or reactions can the wrong choice of words inspire?


the 4 kinds of expression
The 4 Kinds of Expression
  • Observations
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • Needs

Each category requires a different style of expression and often a very different vocabulary.


whole vs partial messages
Whole vs. Partial Messages

Whole messages include all four kinds of expression:

  • What you see
  • What you think
  • What you feel
  • What you need



whole vs partial messages1
Whole vs. Partial Messages

When you leave something out, it’s called a partialmessage. Partial messages often create confusion and distrust. Not every relationship or situation requires whole messages, but partial messages with something important left out or obscured are always dangerous.


contaminated messages
Contaminated messages

Contamination takes place when your message are mixed or mislabeled.

For example, I might be contaminating feelings, thoughts, and observations if I said to my colleague:

“I see that you’re late again.”

What four distinct things did I need to say?


contaminated messages1
Contaminated messages

“I see that you’re late again.”

What four distinct things could I say?






rules for effective expression
Rules for Effective Expression

Messages should be…

  • Direct
  • Clear
  • Straight
  • Supportive
  • Immediate


rules for effective expression1
Rules for Effective Expression

Messages should be…

  • Direct
  • Clear
  • Straight
  • Supportive
  • Immediate


rules for effective expression2
Rules for Effective Expression
  • Messages should be direct.

The first requirement for effective expression is knowing when something needs to be said. This means that you don’t assume people know what you think or want. Communicating directly means you don’t make any assumptions.


rules for effective expression3
Rules for Effective Expression
  • Messages should be clear.

A clear message is a complete and accurate reflection of your thoughts, feelings, needs, and observations, as is relevant to the situation at hand. Don’t leave important things out or fudge by being vague or abstract.


messages should be clear
Messages should be clear
  • Don’t ask questions when you need to make a statement.
  • Keep your messages congruent.
  • Avoid double messages.
  • Be clear about your wants and feelings.
  • Distinguish between observations and thoughts.
  • Focus on one thing at a time.


rules for effective expression4
Rules for Effective Expression
  • Messages should be straight.

A straight message is one in which the stated purpose is identical with the real purpose of the communication. Disguised intentions and hidden agendas put you in a position of manipulating rather than relating to people.


messages should be straight
Messages should be straight

You can check if your message is straight by asking yourself 2 questions:

  • Why am I saying this to this person?
  • Do I want him or her to hear it or something else?


rules for effective expression5
Rules for Effective Expression
  • Messages should be supportive.

Being supportive means you want the other person to be able to hear you without getting upset or defensive. Communicating supportively means that you avoid win/lose and right/wrong games. These are interactions in which the intention of one or both players is winning or proving the other person wrong, rather than sharing and understanding.


messages should be supportive
Messages should be supportive

You can check if your message is supportive by asking yourself 2 questions:

  • Is my purpose to hurt someone, to aggrandize myself, or to communicate?
  • Do I want my message to be heard defensive or accurately?


messages should be supportive1
Messages should be supportive

Stay clear of these unsupportive and unfair tactics:

  • Global labels
  • Sarcasm
  • Dragging up the past
  • Negative comparisons
  • Judgmental “you-messages”
  • Threats


rules for effective expression6
Rules for Effective Expression
  • Message should be immediate.

Delaying communication often exacerbates feelings and emotions. What you couldn’t express at the moment will be communicated later in subtle or passive-aggressive ways.

Sometimes, however, when emotions are high, it may be best to delay communicating. In these cases, make sure to set a time for follow-up.


self awareness

The only way you can be sure to give consistently whole messages is to become aware of your own inner experience.


self awareness1

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What am I observing, thinking, feeling, and wanting?
  • What is the purpose of this communication?
  • Is the stated purpose the same as the real purpose?
  • What, if anything, am I afraid of saying?
  • What do I really need to communicate?


awareness of the other person
Awareness of the other person

A certain amount of audience analysis should precede any important message. Awareness of the other person also means keeping track of the listener’s response while you’re talking.


awareness of the other person1
Awareness of the other person

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What kind of shape might the other person in?

(i.e. in a rush, in pain, sad or angry)

  • What is the other person’s body language communicating?
  • If it is appropriate, is the other person asking questions or giving feedback?


place awareness
Place awareness

Whenever delivering an important message, it’s critical to consider the suitability of the environment. For instance, partial and contaminated messages tend to increase as you feel the need to compress and/or sanitize your comments for public consumption.


place awareness1
Place awareness

General rules for finding the right environment:

  • Consider the nature of the message.
  • Consider if privacy would be best.
  • Consider what interruptions you might be exposed to.
  • Find a place that’s congenial and physically comfortable.
  • Consider the noise level and other distractions that you may be exposed to.


communication styles
Communication styles
  • Passive
  • Aggressive
  • Passive-aggressive (or manipulative)
  • Assertive


communication styles1
Communication Styles

The three non-assertive styles of communicating can sometimes be effective, but they usually involve a degree of:

  • dishonesty,
  • negativity,
  • time-wasting, and
  • conflict.

Only the assertive style leads to honest, effective, and problem-solving communication.



How assertive are you?

To learn to be more assertive, it helps to take a look at where you are right now. Answer the questions on the assessment honestly .



Why is it so hard

to be assertive?


mistaken traditional assumptions
Mistaken traditional assumptions
  • It is shameful to make mistakes.
  • If you can’t convince others that your feelings are reasonable, then your feelings must be wrong.
  • You should accept the views of others, especially if they are in a position of authority. Keep your opinions to yourself. Listen and learn.
  • You shouldn’t take up others valuable time with your problems. People don’t want to hear that you feel bad, so keep it to yourself.
  • Don’t be antisocial. People are going to think you don’t like them if you say you’d rather be alone instead of with them.


assertive rights
Assertive rights

I have the right to…

  • Be treated with respect and to respect others.
  • Ask for explanations for things I do not understand.
  • Change my mind.
  • Make mistakes, to be responsible for them, and to learn from them.
  • Say “NO” without feeling guilty.
  • Express anger, pleasure, and other feelings when and where I think it appropriate (in a manner that will not breach another person’s rights).
  • Express my ideas and opinions and have them listened to.
  • Make reasonable requests. (The responsibility is to acknowledge other people’s rights to refuse.)
  • Not assert myself.


a note about assertive rights
A note about assertive rights

Rights need to be balanced with responsibilities. If we do not accept this balance, then assertiveness simply decays into another form of aggression or selfishness.


communication apprehension
Communication apprehension
  • Trait apprehension refers to fear of communication generally, regardless of situation.
  • State apprehension is specific to a given communication situation. It is very common, and is experienced by most people in most situations.



What are some examples

of situations in which

communicating assertively

is challenging?


challenging situations
Challenging situations
  • Giving constructive feedback
  • Responding to constructive or negative feedback
  • Responding “on the fly”
  • Disagreeing with the boss
  • Communicating change
  • Saying NO (when you want to say yes)
  • Dealing with irate customers


tips for presenting yourself
Tips for presenting yourself
  • Prepare.

If you are part of a work team on a project, stay on top of the big picture. Especially before a meeting, take some to familiarize yourself with new updates. Pay attention to emails from other members of the team, which may include progress reports or summaries. In other words, stay informed! Know what the goals or expectations are for the entire project. This will put you in a better position to contribute and answer questions, which will naturally help you feel more confident.


tips for presenting yourself1
Tips for presenting yourself
  • Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.”

Even when you’re prepared, you might be faced with a question that you don’t know the answer to. It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” or “I’m not sure.” The important thing is to follow that up with “Let me get back you about that.” or to direct the questioner to another resource where they can get the information they need.


tips for presenting yourself2
Tips for presenting yourself
  • Relax.

This may seem counterintuitive to those who experience considerable anxiety when speaking up, especially when you’re put on the spot. But it’s something that you absolutely must practice. First of all, give yourself a break. (When someone puts you on the spot, they and anyone else in the audience usually knows it, and they will probably give you one.) So, breathe. Don’t rush. Pause to gather your thoughts. And continue to breathe properly and take appropriate pauses while you are speaking.


tips for presenting yourself3
Tips for presenting yourself
  • Mind your V’s.

Remember the impact of your visuals, vocals, and verbals. Take note of your bad habits (i.e. speaking too fast, fidgeting) and practice working on them. Ask for feedback from people you trust.


strategies for challenging situations
Strategies for challenging situations

There are other strategies you can use to set limits or assert your own needs in challenging situations.

  • Momentary delay
  • Time-out
  • Broken record
  • Content-to-Process shift


other strategies
Other strategies

Momentary Delay and Time -Out

It’s okay not to respond immediately in certain situations. When necessary, take the time to check in with your own feelings and needs. This let you do four things:

  • Go inside and become aware of what you feel, think, and want in this situation
  • Make sure that you understand the other person
  • Analyze what has been said
  • Consciously influence the situation so that you are more likely to get a desirable outcome.


other strategies1
Other strategies

Broken record

The broken record is a useful technique to use when you want to say no or otherwise set limits with someone who is having difficulty getting your message. This is most handy in situations where an explanation would only provide the other person with an opportunity to drag out a pointless arguments.


other strategies2
Other strategies

Content-to-Process Shift

When you think the focus of a conversation is drifting way from the topic you want to talk about, simply shift from the actual subject being discussed (the content) to what is going on between you and the other person (the process).

A content-to-process shift often involves some self-disclosure about how you are feeling or thinking in the interaction at that very moment.


  • Successful communication comes with awareness – most importantly your awareness of your self. Solicit feedback in order to improve!
  • Whole, uncontaminated messages build positive and productive relationships. When possible, take time to outline your observations, thoughts, feelings, and needs before your respond. Then practice being direct, clear, straight, and supportive in your response.
  • Assertiveness is key. Remind yourself of your rights and practice asserting yourself in everyday situations to prepare for more challenging ones.


thank you for your participation

THANK YOU!for your participation

Joelle LaGuerre,

Staff Development Program Manager

GW Division of Operations