Is it worth it?

Part of my coaching involves what I call the communication review. This process involves my clients sending me their draft responses when they are in a high stakes or emotionally charged email exchange, before sending them.

On Memorial Day, I received a very long email from a client asking for my opinion. My client wrote several paragraphs detailing every hurt feeling and every problem the recipient had caused during a project my client’s department was working on.

I answered the draft answer with a simple question. “What is your intention ? »

He said, “I want them to know how hard it is.”

I explained that it was not an intention. An intention answers the question: “What do you want them to do, think, say or know?”

An intention is actionable. My client’s desire for empathy is a start. But these are feelings, not an observable response. What action will these feelings generate? This is the real intention.

After some back and forth, we determined that what he really wanted was for his boss to change his expectations of the timeline due to the effort and complexity required to complete the project. It is a clear and achievable intention.

Next question, can he communicate this in a way that would be heard and would not pass as blame or complaint? I asked him “is this rant worth it?” I credit the work of Marshall Goldsmith for this valuable question. That’s what I want you to think about this week. Is it worth it? That moment when you say “I told you so” or “if you only had…” Is it worth it? The impact is usually to make you feel better and someone else to feel worse. Is it worth it? What is the impact on the relationship, the results? In this case, my client decided the rant wasn’t worth it, but didn’t know how to communicate differently. That’s the advice I gave him.

  1. Be brief. A long, multi-paragraph email can be overwhelming and put even the most emotionally stable team member on the defensive.
  2. Acknowledge the other party’s understanding. Infuse the emotion you want them to have at the start of the communication. For example, starting with something like “I appreciate your understanding and support as my department works hard to solve this challenge or complete this project” will indicate that you already think the other party is understanding and supportive AND throws the basics for you to request that extra time – your intention.
  3. Clearly share the intention. Don’t be vague about what you need or why you’re sending this email. Communicate your requests or needs directly. In this case, the client would say something like, “I would like to update you on progress and work to establish a realistic timeline for project completion.”

So the next time you have an emotional exchange with someone, ask yourself “is it worth it?” Chances are you can make things clearer with just a few edits and after taking the time to review what you said before immediately hitting “send.”

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