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Meeting Practical Needs for Effective Communication

Posted by Joanne on September 9, 2010 Comments Off

Last week I blogged about meeting the personal or emotional needs of another person to ensure effective communication. By naming and acknowledging the emotions behind issues, you open the doors to communication. This allows you to get on with meeting the practical needs of the other person.

Meeting practical needs is helping the other person solve the problem or come to their own decisions. It helps people look at issues in a different way. This way, they own the solution, learn how to problem solve, and are empowered.  We all know what happens when we tell someone what they should do or give advice. We own the problem and we get blamed if things don’t go as planned.

Let’s continue with the scenario presented last week.  Let’s image that Sam is meeting with his manager, Mary about his performance review. He isn’t very happy about it. Mary does the right thing by acknowledging his feelings. She’s meeting his personal needs. But if that is all she does during the conversation, the performance review issue won’t be resolved. So after Mary shows empathy and understanding, she can start to meet Sam’s practical needs, but using her influencing skills to guide his thinking. 

In this case, Sam’s been an outstanding customer service representative in previous years, but at the beginning of this year, Sam had real difficulties handling his temper when dealing with irrate customers. He had too many things on the go, finishing up a college degree in the evenings, and adjusting to fatherhood with the birth of his first child. But with stress and time management training and coaching to handle irrate callers he is better able to handle stress and his temper, but that’s only come about during the 2nd half of the year. The conversation might go like this: 

Sam:  I’m upset about my performance review.

Mary:  Can you tell more more about what is specifically upsetting you?

Sam:  Yeah, I didn’t get an “Outstanding” rating for Customer Service.

Mary: You’re frustrated and you don’t agree with your rating. (Paraphrasing).  Sam, can you tell me what’s involved in achieving an “Outstanding” rating for Customer Service?

Sam:  Well, I’m pretty good with customers. Isn’t that enough. I’ve been here a long time and I think I work hard.

Mary: Let’s go over the description for “Outstanding.” (Reviews the rating levels with Sam). So you see Sam, an “Outstanding” rating means that you CONSISTENTLY handle customer interactions with professionalism, pleasant tone of voice, remain calm, and you follow specific steps to resolve issues with difficult customers over the FULL review period.

Sam: Well, that’s what I do most of the time. I wasn’t so great at the beginning of the year, but with that extra training and coaching I’m better.

Mary: (calmly) So, on one hand you’re telling me that you had difficulty earlier in the year and you needed help, and on the other hand you’re telling me you deserve an “Outstanding?” 

Sam: Yeah, I guess. But that was earlier in the year. I’m much better now. More like my old self.

Mary:  Yes, your performance is better now and I’m happy to see you seem less stressed. But the performance review covers the full year. (Gives information).  Sam, what was the impact to the company when you lost your temper with our customers?

Sam: The customers didn’t think the best about the company and they complained.  (Mary goes on to ask other probing questions, and Sam admits that they lost one customer after he complained that Sam hung up on him).

Mary:  So we agree that it hurts the company. How did it impact your team?

Sam: Well, Alicia had to deal with one of the customers when I was getting upset. I transferred the call to her.   (Sam goes on to say that Alicia stayed late to finish up paperwork for her own calls, and fixed and completed the paperwork for his call as well).

Mary: So after all that, what’s the impact on you and your performance rating?

Sam:  (Sheepishly) I get a less than “Outstanding” rating.  

Mary: So what actions can you take to achieve an “Outstanding” rating next time? How can I help?

(The discussion continues….)

You can see, that influencing others through guiding thinking takes more time. Mary’s role is to become Sam’s thinking coach.

Why is meeting practical needs important?

Because meeting the practical needs of a person helps increase understanding and solves problems. Sam is much more likely to work actively at changing his behaviour and setting goals to achieve a better rating because he understands and owns the problem.  Mary shares important information and uses influencing skills such as logical consequence questioning, gentle confrontation, reframing, and focussing, to guide Sam’s thinking.  Sam owns the problem and the solution, not Mary! Their relationship is enhanced and Sam won’t hesitate to discuss issues with Mary in the future.

Next time you start down the path of telling another person what you think they should do, or selling your reasons, try meeting their practical needs by using influencing skills.  If you need help, call us for our effective communication workshop!

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 Joanne Royce

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