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Avoid Communication Leakage

Today I started my day by pouring tomato juice into my coffee - perhaps it's a good day to stop, breathe, laugh and reset. Let's have some fun with this one....

Communication is like a tube of toothpaste.

Stay with me here.

Imagine you are holding a tube of toothpaste. Take the top off. Hold it in both hands and SQUEEZE it as hard as you can. Well, that made quite a mess. Let’s just put the toothpaste back in the tube. Not so easy.

If you’ve ever taken a tube of toothpaste on an airplane ride, you’ve seen the results of built up pressure. Pressure builds and the “contents” inside need to be released. If you are lucky, your toothpaste waits for your cue before it explodes. More often, it applies the slow release method all over your clothes, your toiletries and/or your friends and colleagues.

Like toothpaste, communication can leak out in nonproductive or undesirable ways. It can make things clean and fresh or it can be very messy. It responds to pressure. After an “explosion,” we might wish for a do-over (i.e., let me repack, let me reopen that more slowly, let me think before I speak, etc.).

As communicators, we are going to have some worst moments (i.e., do-over moments containing undesirable “leakage” and requiring some clean-up). We are also going to have proud moments (i.e., instances when we communicated in ways that made us proud of ourselves).

Identify Your Proud Moments

Proud moments represent those times when you responded better than you might have expected to a situation or challenge. Perhaps you elected not to engage in or escalate a conflict. It may be a time when a topic/event took you by surprise and yet you elected to pause and think before responding. As a parent, my friends and I talk about “proud parenting moments.” They are those moments when we said all the “right” things to our children and responded like a champ to a challenging situation.

We all have proud communication moments. They surface in challenging relationships, at meetings, and in everyday situations/interactions. These are the moments that challenge us to perform at our best and invite us to bring our A Games.

These are the moments to remember because they provide examples of your success. They feature your best self (i.e., your star communicator). They are moments to build upon. They are moments to strive for.

Deconstruct What Went Right

The best way to invite more proud moments is to deconstruct what went right.

  1. Identify a proud moment (i.e., a time when you were proud of your communication with another person).

  2. Look at it more closely - what did you SAY?

  3. Look at it more closely - what did you DO?

  4. What made your proud moment significant for you?

  5. Were the circumstances surrounding your proud moment unique (e.g., were you well rested, relaxed, etc.)?

  6. What would you like to STOP/START/CONTINUE doing to invite more proud moments?

Remember your best moments. Increase your awareness of what you did right. Do more of it.

Communicate with Intention

Communication, like toothpaste, responds to pressure. Communication is easy to take for granted. It is too easy to do it quickly, automatically and carelessly. Without thinking, nonproductive explosions and/or leakages can create an interpersonal mess. If you are receiving feedback from someone in your sphere that is less than positive, step back for a moment. Have you had any explosions, leakages or moments when you weren't performing as your best self? Consider apologizing and initiating a reset. (More on that in another blog post.)

In the meantime, focus on bringing your best and higher self to all situations - at work and at home. If you are like me, you may have poured some tomato juice in your coffee (or on a coworker) without even realizing it. Stop, breathe, laugh together if you can and reset. Remember what a proud communication moment looks and feels like when you execute it. Do more of that.

Our proud moments remind us that we have a communication star inside. We can strive at all times to communicate in ways that make us proud; we can anticipate situations that might invite explosions and/or leakage. And, we can manifest proud moments at the organizational table as easily as we can invite them to the dinner table.

If communication is like a tube of toothpaste, let’s keep it clean. Avoid leakage. Think ahead. Create a proud moment today.

© Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy is founder of Refreshment Zone and is an organizational and personal development specialist with a doctorate in communication. Contact for information on Organization Development, Communication Analysis & Coaching, SWOT & Climate Surveys and/or Leadership/Life Balance Coaching.

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