One of my favourite interpersonal skills exercises is a role play scenario where one person plays Marie, a Sales Manager, another plays Tim, a quiet junior member of staff and a third is the fly on the wall who gets to observe and feed back. Tim has not completed a task that Marie asked him to do.
The exercise, for Marie, is to find out why Tim has not done as she asked. That’s it. No problem solving, no disciplining or negotiation. It is simply an exercise in exploring, trying to find out exactly what is going on. I explain this to delegates. It is also written on their instructions. It says it on the slide that reminds them what they are doing.
However… A couple of hundred delegates must have done this exercise, and a pattern has emerged very clearly. There are two main factors:
- Most of us can’t ask questions effectively.We resort to leading or rhetorical questions and don’t dig deeper if we are given incomplete or superficial information.
- We appear to be genetically programmed to fix things. Nearly everyone doing this exercise has either come up with a plan or reprimanded Tim.
So, if we tend to fix things without knowing why the problem occurred, how good will our efforts be? Not only are we highly likely to come up with a substandard solution, we’ll probably damage relationships along the way. I’ve seen very few Tims that feel listened to and understood.
If you have people that need to understand and communicate with each other in a more effective way, take a look at our Interpersonal Skills training. You can see an outline here, but do remember that we will always tailor programmes to meet your specific needs.
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