Effective communication impacts everything!
Every person that an educator communicates with needs consistent, clear and honest communication. This is the best way to establish trust and positive relationships. But sometimes communication can go awry, and when that happens, it can feel like our world is collapsing. Often, when communication begins to fail, it’s because emotions get the best of us. For example, when a parent or caregiver shows anger in communication, it’s usually because the emotion (anger) is masking fear – fear that the child is not ever going to learn to read, or fear that the child is going to struggle socially for the rest of his life. As an educator, how you respond to emotional communication can make or break a situation.
Strong Leaders = Solid Communication Skills
Strong leaders effectively communicate by doing such things as actively listen, use appropriate non-verbal communication and clearly, empathetically interact with their audience. But even strong leaders struggle to keep all of the important communication aspects in check when speaking with an emotional student, colleague or parent. Consider what Leaderally Co-Founder, Liz Szporn, describes as the “golden rules” for communicating with an emotional stakeholder.
Communication’s Golden Rules
- Do not take it personally. This is hard, especially for us highly sensitive human beings. But try to take a step back for a moment and remind yourself that this is not about you! This emotional behavior – sarcasm, anger, denial – is more often than not masking fear over something that has nothing to do with you. It could be that your co-worker is scared that his job is in jeopardy, or the student who is completely ignoring you is experiencing some sort of distress at home. Remind yourself that negative communication behaviors normally mask some sort of deeper issue that has no relation to you personally.
- Let them talk! While it is often so tempting to cut the emotionally communicating person off and try to help with soothing words or clarifying questions, sometimes you need to let the talker simply get it all out before you speak. Many people need time to process information, and they talk as they process. Be an active listener by maintaining eye contact and nodding, but give it time before you jump in to respond.
- Try as much as possible to keep stress from escalating, and remain focused on the issue at hand. This is a hard one, especially when the speaker’s emotions are causing you to feel emotional. But remaining calm and continuing to bring the conversation back to the main issue is important to keep the situation from spiraling out of control.
- Look for the solutions and assert that position. While it is critical to remain empathetic and positive in your response to the emotional communicator, it is just as critical to show your assertive side. Offer solutions when the time comes to move forward with that part of the conversation. Be collaborative in your problem-solving, but assert yourself as a professional who can solve the issue at hand.
- Practice empathy always. Ask yourself how it would feel to be in the speaker’s shoes throughout every stage of the emotional conversation, and use that empathy to not only gain trust but also to more quickly de-escalate the situation and move forward with a positive solution. The best leaders in the world are the most empathetic ones, so bring it to your communication always, especially when things get emotional.
Effective communication does not come easily to everyone, but the skill can be developed with the right focus and strategy. Leaderally is pleased to offer several ways to support educators with effective communication, including virtual and in-person micro-workshops, eLearning courses and coaching.
Want to learn more? Let’s talk. You can reach out to Tara Reynolds at firstname.lastname@example.org.