Have you ever considered how often you deal with similar problems or situations? In most occupations, you don’t have 200 unique messages to communicate each day, but rather maybe a dozen similar situations. These occur in various contexts in which you have to communicate important messages. To immediately improve your interpersonal relationships, keep track of those similar important situations and develop scripts that you write out and become familiar with. Memorizing the script will help it to come easily to mind in an appropriate situation.
For example, as a professor I have certain repeating student problems based on the time of year. Now we are entering a fall semester so students ask about getting in a closed class or enrolling during the first week of class. The answer is basically the same even though each student is different and comes into these emergency situations from different backgrounds. I have a pretty good answer for these situations that I use regularly because these problems come up at the beginning of each semester. At the end of the semester, the questions and concerns involve my accepting late papers or discounting excessive absences, or a student’s concern about a grade. For those similar situations I have developed responses I feel comfortable using when those problems arise each year.
You may often be in a situation of refusing a request to help with a worthy cause. If you’ve written out your response, it will come naturally and “trippingly on the tongue.” “I’m sorry, but I’m too committed in other areas to take this on,” or, “Actually, I’d rather you find someone who can give adequate time to this very important project,” can make refusal easier.
Identify a communication situation that you deal with often. Think about the ways you have answered the questions or helped a person understand. Write down your most effective words and practice them. In a short period of time you can eliminate anxiety about saying the right words because you have practiced good answers to the point that they come to you almost automatically. Soon you can feel comfortable with all of your most difficult or important communication situations because of these scripts.
This means that you must keep track of the times when you feel that your response brought effective results. What made it effective from your point of view? How can you use the material the next time to have an even better result? Write down your thoughts and even specific words you used. Once you start doing this, you will think about ways to improve word choice; seeing your words on paper makes it easier to choose better words.
When you are satisfied that you have your best words, continue to work on your message to keep it concise and specific. Listen to colleagues to see how they communicate in similar situations and think of ways you can use their responses to refine your already good messages.
These simple techniques of scripting out messages can help you enjoy your work more and be less anxious about your conversations with colleagues or clients.
by Stephen Boyd