I was lucky enough to attend the 2017 Professional Development Workshop last weekend with the Association of Administrative Professionals in Calgary. The morning session was led by Dr. June Donaldson who specialises in the integration of “emotional intelligence” with critical workplace initiatives. More specifically, the focus of this session was on how to deal with change and how to communicate when conflict arises.
During her talk, Dr. June introduced the concept of the iMessage; a powerful tool you can use to set boundaries and expectations with colleagues when conflicts come up. We have all had the experience of attempting to communicate how a situation made us feel, while worrying about coming across as too personal or having our thoughts dismissed by those who we are talking with. The iMessage is a tool that can help you communicate effectively and confidently, enabling you to work better through conflict.
When to use an iMessage
You would use an iMessage in those cases where you think of a situation about 3 days after it has happened and you find yourself still bothered by itr. At that point, you can begin to assess the situation by asking yourself, “Was I having a bad day?” or “Did I misread that situation?”. If you honestly answer ‘No’, it is perhaps time to have a conversation and establish boundaries.
Here are the 6 steps to an iMessage.
1. “I would like to speak to you about…”
Be straight forward when you open up the conversation. Don’t pretend that you want to talk about something else and then spring the true topic on them. No one likes when this happens and it makes us all instantly defensive. Tell the person what you want to speak about, but don’t go into all the details. You will get into specifics when you talk face to face.
i.e. “I would like to speak to you about the emails I send you for approvals.”
2. “Is this a good time?” or “When would be a good time?”
Don’t assume that just because you are free, that person isn’t completely swamped. You don’t want to put the conversation off indefinitely, but you do want to arrange a time that works for both of you. Make sure the whole conversation can happen, and that you can both focus on addressing the issue. When you ask to speak, if the present time doesn’t work, provide two other times that you are free so they can choose between them. This way, you are still in control of the conversation, but they will feel like they have a bit of control as well.
i.e. “Is this a good time to chat, or is later this afternoon at 2pm a better time?”
3. Describe what they said or did.
Describe the actions that caused the issue or what was said that caused you discomfort. Do so in a non-inflammatory way. Be factual. Talk about what actually happened. This will help the person understand that you clearly remember the incident, even if they don’t, and that it was important to you.
i.e. “As instructed, I always make sure to send you the department communication emails for review before they go out. Even though I let you know in the email that I need your approval or amendments by a specific time, I never get any feedback or approval from you.”
4. “I felt/feel…”
Describe how you felt naturally. Be honest, but not emotional. When we get emotional people lose focus on what we are saying, and start paying attention to how we are reacting. This is another reason you should wait a couple of days to tackle these conversations. You want to make sure you can remain calm during the conversation so you are listened to.
i.e. “When this happens I feel like you don’t respect my time or the process I have been asked to follow…”
5. Explain why you felt like that
This is when you use facts and analytics to back up what you are saying. Remember that not everyone reacts to a situation the same way you do. If a situation made you feel sad, it could make someone else feel angry, or they may not feel either of these and not understand. By backing up how you feel with why a situation made you feel that way, the other person can more easily understand where you are coming from. Never leave someone assuming.
i.e. “… Because this work is deadline sensitive and not having it out on time affects my ability to do my job properly”
6. “Where do we go from here?”
Now, give the person a chance to respond. Decide on a course of action together. These actions need to work for both of you because if you do not come to an agreement together, the same situation will arise again. That being said, maybe they react to your iMessage in a way that still bothers or upsets you. In that case, you may find that you are going through the steps a couple times in one conversation. Also, take into consideration that what you say may upset them. Remember that there are two sides to every conflict, and you both may have to change how you communicate with each other to resolve a situation.
i.e. “I am interested in your thoughts” or “Where do we go from here?” or “What do you think” or “How do you feel?”
Most of the time, using an iMessage will clear communication between people and help them realise why a situation or process is so important to the other person. It doesn’t mean that conflict won’t occur again, but as you practice delivering iMessages, you will become more self-aware and confident in these moments. If you deliver your iMessage from the heart, in a professional manner, know that you are clearing communication channels and erasing conflict from your day to day interactions moving forward.
Author: JC Cornell