Ali Girard


Thoughts on “Communicating on the Edge”

Last week I took a course through UBC Continuing Studies entitled “Communicating on the Edge: Managing Emotion, Conflict and Change.” Over the two and a half days we covered topics such as emotional intelligence, conflict archetypes, and reflective listening. While the course covered a lot of concepts and techniques that are going to make their way into my personal and professional life, I found that these three concepts really stuck with me:

Stay Curious

Approach difficult situations from a place of genuine curiosity. This will not only help you move away from making judgments about the person that you’re interacting with, but it will also help you to employ better listening skills. If you’re genuinely curious, you will ask open questions (what, where, how, etc.) instead of closed questions (with yes or no answers). Open questions reduce defensiveness, allow you to solicit more information, prevent you from jumping to (possibly unwanted) solutions and ultimately contribute to a better understanding between two people.

Look for Unmet Needs

Our instructor on day two, Gary Harper, stated that “conflict is rooted in unmet needs.” This really resonated with me. I would even expand it to “most negative reactions are rooted in unmet needs” – whether they result in conflict of not. The feelings that people express often provide clues as to what their underlying needs are (e.g. anxiety = a need for reassurance or certainty). If we can pick up on those, we address them and move forward having established a more trusting and collaborative relationship.

Acknowledge Core Values

When Cristine Urquhart, the instructor on day three, spoke about “core values” I had a light bulb/ding!ding!ding!/yes moment. Our values shape our attitudes, choices, and actions. If you can find out what a person’s values are, you can appeal to them in order to work toward a change in behavior, because values (once acknowledged) will trump behavior any day. For example, if you’re a salesman and one of your core values is service, you’re more likely to put effort into learning that new ERP system if you can make the connection between your mastery of the system and your ability to provide for customers. If you’re curious, there’s a card sorting exercise that you can do to help determine your core values.

If you’re interested in learning more about these ideas, I recommend that you check out the three instructors that I had for the course:

And, of course, you can always connect with me!

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