This is the first of our Communication Series on the Aurum Blog.
In each post, we will introduce one or two keys to effective interpersonal communication, especially in the context of leadership, collaborative teamwork and organizational culture.
The Foundation of Effective Communication is Human Connection
When we work with other people on a team, communication becomes central to our success. But without genuine connection between people, poor communication often misses the mark, gets overly complicated or even causes breakdown in relationships or teams. At Aurum we have identified three important principles that foster connection, and more satisfying communication.
Apply these principles to your professional and personal life to improve your communication skills and build stronger relationships.
Principle #1: Relational Bank Accounts
Every relationship has a “bank account”—stored experiences and interactions between the individuals in the relationship. Every exchange you have with another individual contributes to or detracts from this Relational Bank Account. Trust-building and positive interactions deposit value into that account. Trust-diminishing or negative interactions are withdrawals from the account.
Research shows that the strongest relationships have a 5:1 ratio of positive interactions to negative ones. Simply put, if you want strong relationships, they need to have more deposits than withdrawals.
Positive interactions include friendly conversations, attentive listening, expressions of curiosity or interest in the other person, expressing respect, acknowledgment or kindness, sharing a laugh, and casual conversations about everyday life—hobbies, interests, etc.
It really comes down to treating the other person with respect and caring for their humanness. When the Relational Bank Account has a positive balance, people trust more, give each other the benefit of the doubt, and go out of their way to help each other. When a conflict or difficult conversation happens, a positive bank account provides a “shock absorbing” effect; difficulties are faced with greater ease, trust, and resilience; challenging conversations such as negative feedback, disagreement, and corrective measures are received in the context of a supportive relationship.
When there is nothing in that Relational Bank Account, the opposite is true. If a good number of your interactions with a given person are corrective, impersonal, or negative, the Relational Bank Account is empty—or worse, it has a negative balance. When you ask them to do something for you, it's likely they will do it grudgingly, partially, or won’t do it at all. When the Relational Bank Account has a negative balance and it’s time for a difficult conversation, things can sour quickly. These interactions are met with distrust, resentment, and negative interpretation. When the account is in the red, people tend to blame, gossip, criticize, and doubt each other.
While this principle applies to all relationships, it is particularly significant when you are in a leadership role. When you’re the leader or manager, a perceived negative interaction on the backdrop of an empty account carries a lot of weight, and has nothing to counterbalance it.
As a manager and leader, attending to your relationships and making regular deposits in those “relational bank accounts” is crucial. If you want a team that’s loyal, honest, forthcoming, and hardworking, you have to see them and treat them as whole people. Say good morning. Thank them for their work. Ask how their day is going. Listen. Appreciate their unique qualities. Reward positive results.
Principle #2: Internal and External Processing
It is a very common mistake to assume other people process, understand, and communicate information the same way we do.
In fact, there are significant differences in how people process information, come up with solutions, and communicate their thoughts. There are two basic and opposite styles that are simple to observe and adjust to: Internal and External Processing. Understanding which type you are, and recognizing the type in others, can dramatically improve your flow of communication with others.
Internal Processors need time to think. They hold discussions inside their head, need to think things through, often stepping away from an interaction to get clear. Once they have worked it out inside themselves, they are ready to share their insights or ideas.
External Processors think by talking. They process information as they hear themselves say it. Sometimes they are just saying words to feel out if something is right—they may not even fully agree with what they are saying—they are working it out as they speak it aloud.
Communication problems arise when we don’t understand or recognize these differences, or expect others to be like us, when in fact they are very different.
For instance, a group of External Processors will have fun with a chaotic, loud brainstorming session, while an Internal Processor will get lost in the shuffle. It would be easy to label that person as not participating, when in fact this medium just doesn’t play to their strengths.
Internal Processors need time to think, and if given that, they will produce well-thought-out solutions. They need a heads-up, and time to prepare. The more spontaneous External type can thrive in “throwing ideas around,” but may be challenged by the need to think things through more fully, and may miss out on the unique insights of their quieter peers.
Internal Processors need time and space to THINK alone
Tips for Working with INTERNAL Processors
External Processors need opportunity to TALK it through
Tips for Working with EXTERNAL Processors
Understanding these two very different modes of processing information will allow you to make the most out of all your conversations and meetings, while supporting each person individually to offer their best contributions.
The Magic of Connected Communication
When you learn to engage these principles in your relationships with others--Relational Bank Accounts and External and Internal Processing—you’ll find your communications are more streamlined, effective, and satisfying at every level. You will develop skill in noticing the quality of connection or lack of it in any situation, learning how to attune to where connection can be made, and being able to cultivate or restore it where needed. Not only will strengthening your communication skills in this way deepen your relationships, your deeper relationships will allow your communications to have exponentially profound effects on your life and work.
MORE in the Communication Series #2 about the 3 Levels of Listening AND Speaking
Devi Cavitt Razo and Deepika Sheleff are co-founders of Aurum Leadership. They are also close friends who have dedicated their lives to creating powerful, honest, resilient relationships.