How you say is more important than What you say ?

I have met employees in different organisations who have shared stories about how they were hurt with the way their managers communicated with them. I used to initially think that this may be because all of us as employees do not like to hear the bad news from our managers. For eg. Who will like a negative feedback from his or her manager ? . But, I was surprised that when I dug deep into it, I found that many employees were okay with the content of the message but were upset the way it was delivered by their managers.

This made me think as to why this happens. I assume all managers are responsible and hence will be careful in preparing their messages and more so when it is a negative message. If a manager has to sit with his employee to give a performance feedback, he will prepare his content and then deliver the message. This may be true in most of the cases. But, the real impact is not content but delivery and mode of delivery.

If a manager takes her employee to a canteen and over a cup of tea and casually makes a comment that the employee has to improve his interpersonal relations and does not substantiate with examples, it could have a negative effect. In this instance, the employee is shattered both by the content and the delivery of the message. First the employee is not prepared for the feedback. Next he feels his manager has been very frivolous and insensitive in the way it was conveyed. So, the lesson learnt is delivery is as important if not more than content of the message.

The situation is no different at home. We as parents tend to convey a negative message to our kid as if we have no ownership to it. We may say your mom feels you are reckless in behaviour though I don’t agree. This can not only harm the child more than before but also create a lack of credibility of yours in the mind space of your kid. We do not realize how a child gets impacted if the message is not conveyed in the right way.

Even in a play field, a coach can motivate a player by ensuring the message is conveyed to the player in the correct manner. A coach is respected, who is not only fair but is perceived to be fair. Perception is based in real experiences of the players. If a player is dropped for a game, the coach needs to plan and deliver this bad news to the player concerned in a proper way. If this is done much before the match and the player is explained the reasons for his dropping by the coach and the captain, this message is taken in the right spirit. On the contrary, if this is conveyed in the last minute just at the start of play, the player gets demotivated.

The same thing happens in organisations too. Employees are open to feedback. I have experienced that they respect leaders who give authentic feedback. Authenticity means that there is no gap between what I say and what I do. If I say you are good at something and then do not give you an opportunity to do that thing, then I lose respect. On the contrary if I tell you that you will not be considered for this project because you do not have the skills but will be considered for the next which will match with your strengths and keep that promise, then I am respected.

Your love and affection can be experienced by the receiver as in the photo above as long as you behave affectionately.

I think it is human to realise that “how we say” something is more important than “what we say “. We are all human and we get hurt as individuals when we are conveyed a message by our family, friends, colleagues or by our manager in an inappropriate manner. Hence, we do realise it . But, it is time to convert that realisation to practise. While we have every right to feel hurt in being conveyed a message wrongly, we have an equal responsibility to ensure that we do not hurt others by similar behaviour while we convey messages to others.

Lets be human.

S Ramesh Shankar

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