A Communication Strategy

By Diane Ruth
Published on Sep 14th, 2010

At a recent seminar, “How to Communicate with Tact and Professionalism,” I studied new methods for improving my communication style. While writing my notes I discovered a connection between the tactics & skills presented and the self-defense strategies we study in Kenpo. I used this information to develop a strategy we can all use to improve our communication skills. A strategy is a master plan; in this case our plan is to communicate effectively. We’ll focus on three tactics and three underlying skills needed to make our tactics work.

What is communication? Communication is the giving or exchanging of information. There are many different types of communication and some methods are more valuable than others. Successful people are great communicators who know how to deal with delicate situations with tact. This strategy is effective for all types of communication. Good communication methods are especially important in maintaining long term relationships. That is a key component of this information. You are enhancing or limiting the quality of your relationships with your friends, family and those important in your life with every communication you have.

Let’s focus on the tactics of effective communication. The first one is “timing.” In Martial Arts timing is the sophistication and punctuation of rhythm. “In essence it is the regulation of speed and coordinated effort in synchronization with an opponent’s movements (Kenpo2000 Green Belt Manual).” In communication timing is also the sophistication and punctuation of rhythm. In this case that can be measured by how you time your speaking rate to their listening rate and where you place emphasis on your words. Think of it as the timing of your message. This is another factor that can lead to miscommunication. If your audience is listening at a slower speed than your speaking they will not be able to keep up with your message. If you place emphasis on only part of your message it may also lead to miscommunication. Unlike self-defense, we are not trying to upset the timing of our attacker; we are synchronizing the timing of our listener so we can be heard. Using a self- defense example, if a punch was thrown faster or slower than we could block and we intersected the arm at an undesirable angle we would most likely get hit. This would not be our desired outcome.

The second tactic “approach with positive intent,” even when we suspect others’ motives are not positive, we must approach every communication with positive intent. This is the best way to have a successful outcome. I am not saying you need to be a pushover. Assume both parties want the same desired outcome (this is tricky with all of our internal filters and previous experiences). We will need to develop our EQ and SQ skills to make this tactic work. EQ stands for Emotional Intelligence which is the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. SQ stands for Social Intelligence which is the ability to comprehend your environment optimally and react appropriately for socially successful conduct. We’ll talk about that more later in this article. If you approach a communication thinking the person is trying to control you or manipulate you in some way then you already missed the message. Listen first and generously. Use straight talk to avoid miscommunication. If you wish to develop this relationship discuss your thoughts and feelings about the topic or issue as well as theirs. When approaching with a positive intent you don’t have to be defenseless. Ask questions to determine their motive. If it’s your boss you may have to deal with it, but in most situations you can just end the communication if you discover less than positive intent from the other participant (either way you will be more equipped to handle their intentions if you are clear headed).

Be kind, but always have a backup” ~ Skip Hancock Professor of the Art Kenpo2000

Not all communicators will approach you with positive intent. Inquire to discover if there are hidden messages by asking open ended questions, closed ended questions, and clarifying questions. In the chart below, taken directly from the seminar, you can see a progressive list of questions established to help you determine their intentions and to check your own filters. Please note the first section helps avoid miscommunication by making sure you’re not making assumptions about their intentions or the source of their belief.

Determine their data What went into your decision? Can you help me understand your thinking? What causes you to say that?
Uncover their reasoning How does that relate to your concerns? What is the significance of that?
Test their conclusions What would happen if..? Can you describe an example?
Check your understanding Am I correct that you’re saying..?
Explain your reasons for inquiring I’m asking about your assumptions because…

The third tactic “body language” is the non-verbal communication used to support your message. If your message is not intended to be mean and your body language is aggressive you will show inconsistent messages to your listener. Aggressive gestures may include: slamming your fist or shaking your head or launching your body towards the other person. The effect on the other person will be defensiveness or misunderstanding. This leads your communication to another level or topic which you do not want. To train your body language pay attention while you are speaking, videotape yourself explaining a task or ask someone you trust to see if your gestures are congruent with your message. Gestures that cause inconsistency in your message include: tilting your head to the side, inappropriate smiling, looking down or looking away. The tone of your voice is also part of your body language. Talking fast or raising your voice may cause misunderstanding. To help support your message maintain an open posture: keep your arms at your side, speak more slowly, don’t raise your voice and avoid making inconsistent gestures.

The first skill we will look at is to “know your audience.” The key to effective communication is knowing how best to communicate with the person you are communicating with at that time. We were taught about the golden rule “to treat others the way we want to be treated ourselves.” Is this a useful strategy? If we look at the work started by Carl Jung on the Four Temperaments and later adapted by Jim Cathcart and Tony Allessandra to the four different communication styles: Director, Socializer, Thinker, and Relator, we find treating others as we wish to be treated only works of the time.

The Director type is generally direct, fast-paced and reserved, has little concern for relationships, does not share feelings and emphasizes results. Directors are usually very decisive. They tend to talk or write in bullet points, highlight important information and want things done quickly. Directors that have not trained their communication skills do not ask about personal information or feelings and generally do not share theirs either.

The Thinker type is more indirect and slow-paced. They are also reserved with their personal information. Thinkers are cautious and task oriented. They tend to work well alone and work towards perfectionism. Thinkers tend to give you more details than necessary to get their point across. Thinkers emphasize mostly facts in a slow methodical fashion.

The Relator is indirect, slow-paced, but open with their feelings and relationships. They tend to share their feelings. They are warm, friendly, easy going, cooperative and usually good listeners. When they communicate, they will usually mention their friends or family and share things about what is going on with them.

The Socializer is direct, fast-paced, and open with relationships and feelings. Socializers have strong feelings of personal worth and are not afraid of taking risks. They are usually enthusiastic and persuasive. Relationships are very important to the Socializer You can usually spot a socializer because they like to interact with people.

Picking up on your audience’s communication style is similar to picking up on a fighter telegraphing his/her motion before a strike. It makes sense to develop this tactic just as in self-defense we train to handle all types of situations. We wouldn’t just learn to defend against punches only or only train a hammering inward block at the same speed, height and angle. In a self-defense situation you have limited opportunities where a particular defense would work. If you want your message to be heard it’s best to adapt to the communication style of your listener.

Another skill to train is managing your emotions. This is a challenge for most of us because we all have internal filters information goes through to be processed. Filters include personal history, interest in the subject matter, vocabulary (jargon), knowledge of the subject, values, biases, and prejudices (how we think people should do this or that). The key to managing your emotions is to be aware of your filters and when they are affecting your listening skills. If you find yourself listening to someone and thinking “she should know better than...,” “what does he mean by that?” or “they don’t know what they are talking about,” these are your filters at work. You have stopped listening to the message and started interpreting what the person is saying through your filters. Filters can be a useful defense mechanism, but the moment they obstruct effective communication they are no longer helpful. You may miss important information because you turned off what they were saying due to the way they express themselves.

For example, if you approach an employee whose filter is low self-confidence you may get agitated when this employee doesn’t participate in the conversation or respond to your statements. The employee’s low self confidence filter is saying “my boss doesn’t want to hear what I have to say,” “I’m not important,” or “I have nothing meaningful to contribute.” If you don’t control your emotions you may take this personally and the miscommunication may escalate resulting in misunderstanding, moving you further away from your desired outcome. A remedy for this is to take a deep breath, count to 5 or 50 to buy time, relax your muscles, or use peaceful imagery. It is important to stay cool and not to dramatize your feelings. Instead, ask questions to determine what the other person is thinking or to discover if their filters are blocking your message. Use objectivity to gain a different perspective. Using the example above, instead of getting agitated when you recognize the employee’s lack of confidence, simply say “your opinion matters and I would like to understand what you think about this.” With little effort, you can establish an effective working relationship with this person making all future communications easier.

The last skill I want to talk about is “becoming a good listener.” We touched on this in the previous skill. You need to hear the message in order to respond appropriately. Good listeners make eye contact, nod occasionally, and say words of encouragement. They paraphrase the speaker’s words, clarify, summarize, hold their fire, and then calmly state their views. Focus on content, remain open-minded, and pay attention to nonverbal clues. Above all listen more than you talk. Obstacles to good listening include: when you lose objectivity and start planning your response before the other person is finished speaking.

I will briefly discuss Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Social Intelligence (SQ) as a fitness. Fitness is the quality that will improve or limit your skills. Improving your fitness helps your skills work, which makes your tactics work. Ultimately this makes your strategy work. Developing your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) which is the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions will help you manage your emotions when dealing with others. This gives you the ability to remain objective and reframe your emotional response as well as exercise patience so you can listen to what is being said. In this strategy you can use your EQ to develop the awareness of what is happening instead of letting your filters control the communication. Social Intelligence (SQ) which is the ability to comprehend your environment optimally and react appropriately for socially successful conduct will help you be a good listener and to determine your audience. You cannot change anyone else, you can only change yourself. You will have to train this strategy until it is internalized. With a little work, you can be more direct and clear in your communication while strengthening your relationships.

I’ll end with a quote the trainer used:

"Say what you mean, mean what you say and don’t say it mean~ Author Unknown.

STRATEGY (Master Plan)

Communicate Effectively

TACTICS (Method Used)

Approach with Positive Intent
Body Language

SKILLS (Abilities Needed)

Know Your Audience
Be A Good Listener
Managing Emotions

FITNESS (Qualities of Skills)

Emotional Intelligence
Social Intelligence

Filed under Instructors and Teaching

Author Bio :: Diane Ruth

Diane started training in the Martial Arts in 1997 and received her Black Belt certification in 2003. For fifteen years Mrs. Ruth has trained in Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate exclusively. She is a professional instructor teaching both children and adults. Mrs. Ruth is a partner in M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club. M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club which is affiliated with The MALC and Kenpo2000. Diane's primary focus is developing a complete teaching strategy which incorporates Principle Based teaching.

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