Interpersonal communication may be the most important thing we need to know.
I teach the subject in my community, publish the e-newsletter Water Cooler Diplomat and maintain a communication blog.


Sample newsletters appear below:


Water Cooler Diplomat: Your Inside Guide to Courteous Communication

In This Issue:

Giving Thanks

Putting It in Writing


    Successful communication isn't taught in any school--but
    it may be the most important thing you need to know. For
    your weekly communication tips, see below:



Giving Thanks

Thank those who are kind to you. Do it loudly. Do it often.




 

Your parents may have     
taught you that, when
others are kind to you,
they need to be thanked.
Acknowledgment of
another's good deeds can
be public and loud, or
written and sent--but it
must be done.
 


Quick Tip:

Remember birthdays. You can find "birthday books" at any decent
 stationery store. When a friend, acquaintance or coworker mentions
his birthday (or anniversary, etc), write it down.

Keep a box of pretty all-occasion cards. Friends and coworkers will
be thrilled that you remembered and sent a card. They'll feel good,
you'll feel good. Try it!

 

   
Write Condolence Letters

Number-one worst fact about life: People die. When they do, they're missed. What can you do to comfort friends and family of the recently deceased? Lots of things--but, at the very least: write.

Condolence letters need not be long, elaborate, or literary enough for publication. They need only be written. If sincerely, briefly, and with a favorite recollection, all the better.

As the wise and wonderful Judith Martin ("Miss Manners") pointed out in her Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, avoiding this task will just make you feel awkward later, when you run into the person you meant to write to, but didn't. (She's right. I know.)

By the way, don't email your message; write it (by hand, unless your writing is very difficult to read, or you have a disability that makes hand writing impossible). You can't know how much it might mean to a friend, former friend or even an acquaintance that you took the time to offer a word of comfort.
 
 
Putting It in Writing

 A professional etiquette
 consultant once told me
 that if someone spends
 more than fifteen minutes
 doing something for you,
 that person deserves a
 written thank-you.
 How true!

 Even if the person's
 efforts took less time, but
 are appreciated, let him
 or her know. A written
 thank-you takes only a
 few minutes to write, but
 the recipient will
 remember it for a long
 time after. It's worth
 your effort.

 Some people feel
 self-conscious about their
 writing skills. Please
 don't worry about this.
 All you need do is write
 sincerely. You don't have
 to say anything more
 than, "I wanted to let you
 know how much I
 appreciate the way you
 resolved [such-and-such]
 problem for me. You
 were professional, kind
 and effective. I plan to
 continue to shop at [your
 establishment] for a long
 time." Of course, a note
 to a superior about
 especially courteous or
 conscientious service will
 probably be appreciated
 even more.

 A thank-you note will
 also help you stand out
 from the crowd because,
 sadly, not many people
 take the time to write
 them anymore. Email is
 definitely better than
 nothing, but a written
 note carries that
 much more weight.

 A note on notes: Choose
 blank paper or cards,
 rather than those
 imprinted with the words
 "thank you." Classic
 etiquette holds that
 pre-printed sentiment is
 lazy. It is, however,
 better to use a
 pre-printed card than not
 to write at all.




Sample newsletter no. 2:


Water Cooler Diplomat: Your inside guide to courteous communication
May, 2008      Issue No. 6

In This Issue:
Pinpointing the Problem

How often do people wind up arguing back and forth, chasing endless tangents, becoming-and making one another-angry, without coming close to solving the problem at hand? Answer: often!

Pinpointing the problem-agreeing about what it is that needs to be solved-will help you focus your attention and arrive at a course, or several possible courses, of action.

How do you do this?  Three easy steps:

1)    Define the problem. Sounds too simple for words, right? Yet, in virtually any argument you can think of, whether between loved ones or work mates, chances are this crucial step got overlooked.

Clearly state the nature of the conflict or difficulty. Let us say you feel as if your immediate supervisor is hovering. You might say, "The problem, as I see it, is that I feel over-supervised." You can also go on to support your argument, calmly and with similarly non-judgmental language.

Let's take a look again at your opening statement. "The problem..." (Good. You've stated your intention to define it, rather than talk around it) "...as I see it..." (Excellent! No one can fault you for stating what is simply your point of view. You have left the door open for others to "see" the situation differently. Very open minded of you.)

Finally, you accuse no one (at least, not directly). You merely discuss your feelings. "I statements" ("I feel," "I think") are nothing new. Psychologists and family counselors have advised their use for decades. That's because they work.

Contrast our sample statement above with what might be your first inclination: "Roberta keeps standing over me. It's driving me crazy! Do I have to be watched like a child?"

That kind of statement puts others on the defensive--and doesn't make you look good, either. It presents you neither as a team player nor a diplomat. Our sample speech might, at worst, come off as slightly new-agey or phony-but it will also mark you as tactful and in control of your emotions; two traits valued in business and in life. In other words, you'll be branded a winner. Pretty good for one short sentence!

Now That You've Agreed on What the Problem Is

2) Find out whether all (or both) of you agree that it's a problem. Seek out the other parties' opinions. However, don't expect your conversation mates to behave as tactfully as you do. Not everyone knows better than to shout, whine, accuse and excuse. Don't worry, though. You'll still look great. Probably even more so by comparison.



Once You've Done This

3) It's time for a solution! Tactfully propose your own, and listen to the suggestions of others.

"Brainstorming," whereby each participant proposes solutions rapidly, without judgment on anyone's part, can help a lot.
It's also important to keep judgment to a minimum when discussing the merits (or lack of same) for each proposed solution. Try not to decide right away whether a suggestion is workable. Think instead in terms of:

Its good points

Its negative points

Its neutral points


Example:

Let us say we're working on solving the conflict mentioned above, between the worker and supervisor. Imagine that one proposed solution involves the employee turning the tables and watching her supervisor like the storied hawk.

What are some potential benefits offered by that sample solution?
Hmm. . .

It might make the employee feel better.

It could help Roberta see how others interpret her management style.

It would cost nothing to implement.

Roberta's charge might, perhaps, feel valued within the company and therefore become less eager to look for a new position, et cetera.

Potential negatives:

Such an arrangement might waste company time

. . .Disrupt other employees. . .

. . . And benefit no one, particularly.

Plus, Roberta would probably feel resentful as all get-out.


The proposed solution's neutral points:


It is a possible course of action.

It will not involve many employees.

Et cetera.


In future issues, we'll talk about how to listen actively and effectively. See you then.


Water Cooler Diplomat
is a publication of the Lowe Co.
 
 
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