Feng Shui for the Mind: Keys to Uncluttered Communication
by Marty Stanley
Are you tired of not getting what you want? Do you feel as if your colleagues or staff aren’t listening to you or following through on their commitments?
If so, prepare for a little feng shui for your mind.
Creating harmony and flow, not clutter and disappointment
For those unfamiliar with this ancient Chinese practice, it is about placement and design to create spaces of harmony and balance. Proponents say good feng shui and “chi,” or flow, have a positive effect on health, prosperity, reaching goals and good relationships.
Craft your words carefully
Just like feng shui, we need to know how to use words to remove clutter and barriers in order to have clear communication. Careful use and placement of words can achieve balance, flow and harmony.
Sometimes we spend more time crafting our words to order coffee than we do to communicate goals, expectations, preferences or disappointments.
I used to order “a double mocha frappuccino with a shot of espresso, skinny, grande in a venti cup with shake of nutmeg and vanilla bean,” and hope for the best. Now, I just order a small coffee. It’s a lot easier, and I get what I want: a cup of coffee. It’s not very glamorous without all the filler, fluff and calories, but how often does one really need all that? Even if you want it, a steady diet of it is not good for your waistline or your wallet.
And that’s what feng shui and uncluttered communication have in common: clarity and simplicity.
What are you really saying?
If you’re not getting what you want, step back and listen to your choice of words. Are you clear about what you really want before you start talking?
In this era of things being “on demand,” instant messaging and texting, we feel compelled to speak or write before thinking. Stop, and take a few minutes to remove the clutter, to balance your thoughts. What do you really want? What is the intended outcome you want from this interaction? If you’re not sure, write it down and look at it. Is that what you want? If you got that, would that make you happy or deliver the results you want? If not, continue writing until you’ve found the clarity and simplicity of your thoughts.
Once you have “feng shui’d” your thoughts and words to be sure they are aligned and in harmony with what you want, it’s time to take action. The next step is to express yourself with clarity, conviction and compassion—or, at least, without blame, judgment, drama or exaggeration.
Cut the drama
It’s important to note that whenever there is drama around a situation, you can be assured clear communication is going to be compromised. In these situations, it is even more critical to step back and be objective about the end result you really want to achieve. Look at all sides, all possibilities and all parties involved. Again, like feng shui, it’s about creating a space of harmony and balance. Drama creates barriers to accomplishing what you want.
3 approaches to clear communication
Make a request
One way to reduce the clutter in your communication and get what you want is to make a request. A request is similar to an invitation. When you receive an invitation, you can accept it or decline. In addition, a request can provide an opportunity for a counter-offer.
When you start a sentence 'with the words “I have a request,” it forces you to be clear about what you want. It also alerts the listener to pay attention, without the fear, manipulation or apprehension that can occur when someone barks “I need this now!” or sugarcoats “Can you do me a favor?”
For example, instead of blurting out, “You’re late again” or being passive-aggressive about it by sighing, rolling your eyes and looking at your watch as the offender strolls past your office 30 minutes late, try this:
Think through what you really want and how you want to come across as a leader and manager. Align your thoughts, words and actions to that image. Now you’re ready make your request.
“Bill, I have a request. When I hired you, you said you could work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The past couple weeks, you haven’t been here until 8:15 a.m., sometimes later. I request that you honor your commitment to work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.”
In this example, the manager is holding Bill accountable for keeping his commitment. There is no drama, blame or opportunity for excuses. It does provide, however, an opening for Bill to make another request or counter offer, such as “I’m taking the kids to school now. Would it be possible to start at 9 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m.?”
Remember, when making a request, you need to be prepared for it to be declined or engage in a counter offer. If you’re not willing to accept a “no” or a counter offer, then don’t make a request.
State your expectations
Sometimes we think we’ve communicated expectations, but maybe we’ve only been rehearsing the dialogue in our heads. Did you actually tell the person what is expected? Or, did you say something like, “You should know this is part of the job”?
Note that saying “you should know” can make the other person defensive and rarely results in a good outcome.
So next time, instead of being snarky and saying, “Why can’t you get this right consistently?” try this:
“Karen, we’ve reviewed this customer’s specifications for this job. I expect you to consistently do the work according to these requirements. If this happens again, there will be a written warning.”
Make sure your expectations are reasonable and actually part of the job. It helps to refer to documentation to support the expectation, such as a job description, product specifications or legal requirements. People also need to know what happens if they don’t meet expectations.
Keep your promises
If you say you’ll do something, do it. If you find you are over committed or can’t follow through, the best thing to do is acknowledge that to the person to whom you made the commitment. Do it as soon as you’re aware you can’t keep the promise. All you have is your word. Don’t diminish your integrity by not keeping your word to someone.
One of the best ways to have others keep their promises to you is to model this behaviorl; however, there are times when we need to hold people accountable for not following through on their commitments to us.
By following the formula for feng shui for the mind and clear communication, you will reap the benefits of clarity of thinking, aligning your words to your thoughts and taking action that is consistent with your thoughts and words. These are the keys to uncluttered communication.
Marty Stanley, president of Dynamic Dialog Inc. (www.alteringoutcomes.com), is an author, national speaker and facilitator who helps organizations create their new normal. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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