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The job of a supervisor does not end by knowing the work and training the employees. The supervisor must also secure maximum cooperation from each individual person. But a person’s opinions and feelings are directly involved in the degree to which he or she is willing to join in the supervisor’s efforts to increase mutual collaboration. Therefore, knowing how to get these sentiments, and to do so quickly and easily, is among the more important skills of supervision.

Good communication in the workplace is often hard to find even though we know that when communication between people is good, it avoids lots of problems. To help understand this paradox, experience has shown that one main obstacle to communication is our tendency to evaluate.

It seems we all have a natural urge to judge, evaluate and approve (or disapprove) of another person’s point of view. For instance, if someone says, “I didn’t like what heard from that guy,” you will likely respond with “Oh, I didn’t either” or “Well, I thought what he said was spot on!” In other words, your first reaction is to evaluate what was said from your point of view.

Now, while the natural tendency to evaluate is often useful, if emotions or strong feelings are deeply involved it usually becomes a barrier to effective communication. If you’ve ever been a bystander to a heated discussion, you probably went away thinking to yourself “It didn’t seem they were talking about the same thing with each other.” In other words, each person was making a judgment from a personal frame of reference, and there was no communication between them in the real sense of the word.

But remember, these feelings and opinions by themselves are not the barrier. It is how the supervisor chooses to respond to them that determines the outcome.

Let me illustrate. Smith, the supervisor, says to Jones, the operator, “Jones, I think this is the best way for you to do your job.” Now, as you can imagine, some emotions are going to be involved when Jones responds by saying, “Oh, yeah?”

I’m sure you know where this is headed. Smith is a logical and practical thinker who presents his facts and the evidence. But the more he tries to explain, the more frustrated he becomes. And the more frustrated he becomes, the more his ability to reason logically is diminished and the easier it becomes to think of Jones as uncooperative or stupid.

This perception then affects what Smith says and does.

Let me summarize. The biggest communication block between two people is their inability to listen to each other intelligently, understandingly, and skillfully. This deficiency in the workplace is widespread and appalling. And while there is no “silver bullet,” it is clear that understanding another person’s point of view will improve communication. The path to follow then starts by being aware of this natural tendency to judge and holding it at bay, so to speak, in order to get beyond the words spoken to the opinions, feelings and sentiments behind them.

How can you get another person’s feelings and opinions? While this may seem an extraordinary accomplishment given differences between people in motivation, point of view and background, experience has shown that there are some simple tips that if practiced, can lead to better understanding and more meaningful communication.

To learn more about these tips for how to get a person’s feelings and opinions please attend my April 23 webinar or, after that, view the recorded one.

by Richard Abercrombie

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