We may often find ourselves in a situation where we stay quiet because we do not know what to say at the time. Instead of wishing we could have had a good comeback, question or comment, you can actually prepare for the unexpected. Let me introduce you the concept of a communication toolbox.
A Communication Toolbox?
Your communication toolbox is full of phrases and reactions that you ‘might’ need in the future. You create these phrases before you actually need them. You prepare ahead of time when your head is clear, when you do not have ‘all eyes’ on you, and when you are not expected to react. Too often, we say things or do NOT say things when we feel under pressure. We under communicate – that is, communicate in a way that is below our best level. The result is that we tend to take the easiest or most comfortable path in reacting to others. When we under communicate, it is usually at the expense of communicating our value, worth or often, our boundaries. If you prepare ahead of time and become familiar with phrases before you need them, you are more apt to state them at the right time with full confidence.
Communication Tools: The Phrases
Let’s say you deal with a difficult person on a regular basis and never quite know what may fly out of their mouth. You may ignore their comments because you do not want to deal with them and/or hate to be too confrontational. However, they are out of line or rude. You wish you could say something to create a boundary. In the last, you wouldn’t mind drawing a little attention to their behavior so they don’t continue to act in this manner. However, you can’t seem to ever predict how they may offend. After thinking it through proactively, you place the following phrases in your communication toolbox,
To clarify, I just heard this _____ is this in line with what you meant?
Can you please explain it further?
Tell me more…
Wow. (PAUSE), please tell me more about that.
By addressing the comments, you are stating a boundary by not letting their rude comments fly by you wihtout a reaction. You are respectfully inserting your comments by showing recognition of their offensive communication. (Next article might be how to do this with effective body language to diffuse any potential negative reaction.)
Next, let’s say a colleague asks you a question and you do not know what your answer should be. You do not want to look stupid as if you do not know the answer. You do NOT want to say “I don’t know.” So instead you have the following in your communication toolbox:
“I do not have an answer for you right now, let me get back to you.”
“I am not sure how I feel about that right now, let me get back to you.”
“That is interesting and I need more time to think this through… let me circle back with you…”
These are just a few options of endless possibilities. The key to creating the phrases in your tool box is to make sure you can see yourself using them. Make the phrases your own.
How to Create Your Communication Toolbox
Now, it is time to create your own communication toolbox. Follow these few steps:
Step 1: Identify the situations. When do you want to be able to confidently speak up? Reflect why you have not spoken up in the past. I suggest physically listing the situations that you experienced. Describe what happened as well as your feelings in that moment.
Step 2: Address any concerns. Is speaking up out of your comfort zone? Does someone intimidate you so you just don’t want to deal with them? Is there a power dynamic that makes you uncomfortable? Dive into these concerns, owning your feelings and being as objective as possible knowing the end goal is creating phrases that you can own and will use.
Step 3: Type the phrases. List every single possible phrase. Create a master list. Highlight a potential situation as a header, then list the phrases you can use during that type of situation below it. Review it. Update it. Have it at the ready. This is your Communication Toolbox.
Step 4: Practice. Become so familiar with these phrases that they roll off your tongue. You do NOT want the first few times you say the phrase to be when it really counts. Practice. Rehearse. Record yourself. Watch the video. As silly as it sounds you are simply rehearsing so you feel more comfortable and confident when the time is right to pull out the right tool!
The more prepared you are, for the most unexpected situations, the more confident you will feel. The more confident you feel, the better you show up to the best of your ability. Do not under-communicate just because you have not taken the time to prepare yourself. We are judged constantly on how we show up in various settings. Do not leave your presence to chance. Prepare by proactively creating your communication toolbox to present your best self, even in the most unexpected situations.
Meg Bucaro is a communication strategist and college faculty who is passionate about empowering clients to perform at their highest level by communicating with more confidence. She is especially passionate about positioning women for success by teaching them powerful communication behaviors. For more information on how to nail that next presentation with confidence, or for help crafting your next important message, schedule a chat with Meg. https://megbucaro.com/contact/ or follow Meg Bucaro Communications here https://www.instagram.com/meg_bucaro_communications/