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The Art & Science Behind Successful Communication Interactions

April 13, 2015 » Situational Communication® Concepts and Skills

Think you don’t need to be a good communicator to be successful in your career? Think again.

I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun. John D. Rockefeller

Why is this Statement True More than Ever Today?

The communication process is the cornerstone of many of the other processes that drive your successful business and professional results and relationships. From leadership to management, from team building to mentoring, from sales to professional coaching – the communication process represents the “how to” for each.

A survey of 565 global employers by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which administered a widely used business school entrance test to assess MBA graduates for mid-level leadership positions, found that corporate recruiters ranked communication skills ahead of teamwork, technical knowledge and leadership. In fact, respondents rated communication skills ahead of managerial ability by a two-to-one margin!

You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere. Lee Iacocca

Everyone agrees on the importance of an individual’s communication ability when it comes to achieving consistent results, developing effective relationships and proceeding on an upward career path. But some of us disagree on what it takes to communicate successfully and effectively, particularly in business and professional environments.

I‘ve Read a Variety of Blogs Written by Communication Experts…

What I usually see is a laundry list of the following clichés in blogs with titles like The Top Ten Powerful Tips To Be A Successful Communicator (pick any 10):

  • Be brief
  • Be empathic
  • Be adaptable
  • Be transparent
  • Be organized
  • Be emotionally intelligent
  • Be confident
  • Be civil
  • Be a story teller
  • Be friendly
  • Be authentic
  • Be personal
  • Be concise
  • Be aware
  • Be mindful
  • Be open
  • Be prepared
  • Be respectful
  • Be clear
  • Be compassionate
  • Be assertive
  • Be dedicated
  • Be a good listener
  • Be real

Lots of these “social media communication experts” present clichés for what you have to do, in a general sense, but seem short on advice as to how to do it. More importantly, how can you do it successfully and effectively, in challenging situations with key people in your business and professional life? These people might include your executive team, your managers, associates, colleagues, those who report directly to you, clients, customers and suppliers. A challenging situation might be one in which points of view, priorities, interests and preferred solutions are different or in conflict.

Picture the scenario. Now back to that list…

Be real? Be confident? Be compassionate? Be dedicated? Yes, those traits will help, but if that’s all you’ve got you’re dead!

Business and Professional Communication Interactions are Complex

Clichés and a few odd communication skills aren’t enough if you hope to achieve your results with, not at the expense of, your relationships. In the most difficult of circumstances, you’ll require in depth knowledge, skill and experience planning and executing the dynamics of the communication process. If you don’t understand or can’t successfully apply your communication skills within the framework of the communication dynamics, then all the clichés in the world won’t help you.

First, you have to understand the science of communication as a process. Then you must understand how, when and where communication skills complement the process. And finally, in order to achieve Results with Relationship, you must gain valuable experience to apply your knowledge and skills successfully and effectively in important and challenging interactions.

Process: a systematic series of actions directed to some end.

Successful/Effective Communication: A Combination of Art and Science

Science depicts how communication works as a process, with rules governing where you start, according to the situation, and how you proceed in order to give yourself the best chance for a positive outcome.

Art refers to the skills necessary to navigate the process, not only successfully (to produce positive results) but also effectively (to enhance, not hurt the relationship).

Without the skills, knowledge of the communication process is empty. Without knowledge of the process, communication skills leave you blind. But when you put them together, you have a dynamic process of sharing information (both verbal and nonverbal) to explore the perceptions of the participants in order to move towards a mutually acceptable understanding and/or result. This process frequently involves the interplay of many factors, particularly in important, difficult and high-risk situations – the kind you face everyday in business and the professions.

Communication is the real work of leadership. It’s a fundamental element of how leaders accomplish their goals each and every day. You simply can’t become a great leader until you are a great communicator. Travis Bradbury

The communication process is not only the cornerstone of other business and professional processes. It also shares the systematic and developmental nature of these other processes. In the same way that leaders develop their followers from where they are now to where their potential will take them in the future, successful/effective communicators develop their interactions from an appropriate beginning to a mutually acceptable conclusion, achieving Results with Relationship. It’s not as easy as simply being brief, clear, organized or assertive. Although these traits can be helpful in many business and professional situations, they only scratch the surface of what it takes to be a successful/effective communicator.

After all — leadership, distilled to its essence, is the pursuit of more productive, higher performance interactions. Leaders who find the best ways to communicate moment to moment are finding that those moments will translate tangibly to enduring, high performance relationships in the marketplace. Douglas Conant, Chairman of the Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute

What Does it Take?

So what kind of knowledge (science), skills (art) and experience (application of the science and art) do you need in business and professional situations, particularly the challenging ones, in order to:

  • Communicate and relate to others in a way that motivates and inspires them to reach their potential?
  • Gain the respect, trust and loyalty of those you lead and those you follow, (colleagues, team members, clients, customers and suppliers) by valuing, supporting, listening and giving fair-minded consideration to their views – particularly when points of view, priorities, interests and preferred solutions are different or in conflict?
  • Understand and be understood and know when and how not to make a bad situation worse and how to make it better?
  • Achieve results with, not at the expense of, relationships?
  • Create collegial, inclusive, collaborative communication relationships that respect personal and organizational values?

Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it. Robert Frost

The Knowledge (Science) You Need to Achieve Results with Relationship

 How, when and where you say something can be almost as important as the message itself. Anne Bruce and James S. Pepitone

You must understand:

  • The difference between thoughtful engagement and thoughtful engagement with a specific purpose: Interpersonal Communication vs. Situational Communication®.
  • The strategic, developmental Situational Communication® process employed when preparing for, planning and executing important business and professional interactions, when both the results and relationship are important: The System.
  • How your Relating Style (your results or relationship-orientation) affects your ability to employ The System appropriately in challenging situations: What Is Your Leadership Relating Style?
  • How to analyze communication situations to determine how your relationship and the potential tension in the interaction impact the level of risk to your success and effectiveness. Where do you start and how do you move backward and forward in the communication process: Situational Analysis.
  • When and how to use your communication skills within the communication process, particularly managing your emotions to improve your chances for a successful/effective result: How Successful Leaders Manage Their Emotions.
  • How to recognize and deal with “difficult” people in a way that is both successful and effective: How To Deal With Cheap Shot Artists.

Communication technology encourages us to express whatever is on our minds in that instant. But sometimes healthy relationships require self-restraint and self-quieting, deference and respect (at the exact moments when those things are hardest to muster). David Brooks, Columnist, The New York Times

The Skills (Art) You Need to Achieve Results with Relationship

To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well. John Marshall Click To Tweet

You must be able to:

  • Develop an appropriate climate for important communication interactions by applying active and reflective listening skills, reading verbal and nonverbal cues, introducing safe topics, and knowing when and how to move forward.
  • Develop mutuality in an inclusive, supportive way and invite a discussion in a non-threatening collegial manner.
  • Develop landscape vision by disclosing information and sharing feedback to answer the what, why, when, how, where, who questions of an interaction.
  • Develop a win/win result by asserting your priorities and preferred solutions and negotiating a mutually acceptable result.
  • Develop and execute a win/win negotiation strategy that satisfies the highest priority needs of both sides with the lowest cost to each other.
  • Do all of the above at the right time, in the right place, with the right people, in the right way – one that produces successful results and effective relationships.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou

What Kind of Experience Do You Need?

Communication works for those that work at it. John Powell Click To Tweet

You need lots of the right kind of experience in a variety of situations. Dealing successfully and effectively with key people in your business and professional life, especially when points of view are different or in conflict, can make or break a promising rise up the corporate ladder. If you are short on experience combining the science and art of the communication process in important interactions, it is next to impossible to be consistently successful and effective. Maybe it’s time to make your move.

The art of communication is the language of leadership. James Humes Click To Tweet

Why is Good Communication So Highly Valued?

There’s a reason why business and professional organizations will “…pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun”. It ain’t easy! It is particularly challenging in those important and/or difficult situations that business and professional leaders are engaged in every day. Communication skills are considered by some to be the “soft skills”.  The hard part is knowing when, where, how and why you apply them successfully and effectively.

Communication in business and the professions is a dynamic and highly sophisticated process. It can be viewed like a game of chess. You can learn a few of the basics in hours, but it can take a lifetime to master. Clichés and a few skills will help you navigate through simple interactions (those thoughtful engagements) but they won’t help you achieve Results with Relationship when you really need to (those thoughtful engagements with a purpose). There are no shortcuts.

Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter. Dr. Gil Amelio, Chairman, Board of Directors of 5BARz International, Inc.

Help is on the Way…

If you want an opportunity to greatly improve your career chances by exploring your strengths and weaknesses in achieving Results with Relationship, expanding your knowledge and skills in the use of this dynamic process and gain experience in its application, simply click here for 10 reasons to take advantage of a no obligation, FREE session of Situational Communication®.

Communication - the human connection - is the key to personal and career success. Paul J. Meyer Click To Tweet


Dr. Don MacRae is the author and passionate leader of Situational Communication® and the CEO of Lachlan Enterprises Incorporated (The Lachlan Group).

Do you know the primary reason leaders and potential leaders fail today? It’s not because of what they do but rather how they do it – in other words, their communication, negotiation and relating skills. Find out “how to” improve both your success and communication and negotiation effectiveness by taking advantage of the FREE version of the Situational Communication® website/webinar.

Situational Communication®: The Strategic Leadership Communication Process and Relating Styles of Successful/Effective LeadersEmotionally intelligent communication, negotiation and relating strategies that maximize a minimum amount of time to consistently achieve successful results and develop effective relationships.

Enhance your personal, business and professional leadership credibility, respect, fairness, pride and collegiality. Learn to communicate, negotiate and relate to others with personal power, influence and persuasion every time – particularly in difficult and challenging situations.

Learn more about what Situational Communication® can do for you, your career, your leadership, your organization and your professional development. Contact us today.