Why communication is the opposite of competitive sport

10th December 2013

One key rule when playing competitive sport: do what your opponent least wants you to do.

So, when Andy Murray plays someone with a weak backhand, he makes them play lots of backhands. It’s the obvious thing to do if you want a win, yes?

With communication, it’s the opposite: do what your audience most wants you to do.

So, if they like to be involved, ensure your communications are interactive by asking lots of questions. It’s the obvious thing to do if you want a win-win, yes?

Here are a few simple ideas, to make sure you’re doing what others want you to. Some of this list might sound obvious. But how many do you actually do? And more importantly, how many do others think you do?

  • People like to feel understood, listened to, and that your agenda ties into theirs…

…So, ask good questions upfront, so you can then tailor what you say to their perspective

  • They like to be entertained…

…So, be entertaining. Think of things they will find enjoyable – stories, examples, trivia…anything – and include it

  • They don’t want to be worried about anything…

…So, ask if there’s anything they’re worried about. Then remove it

  • People don’t enjoy having challenging conversations, where you both go over old ground, blaming each other (remember: persuading someone they’re wrong is never a good way to win an argument)…

…So, explain that you would like to find a mutually acceptable solution that improves things for you both. Then work with them to do so

  • They don’t want to read/hear content that’s irrelevant to them…

…So, ask them upfront what they want you to include/exclude

People despise going to meetings they didn’t need to attend…

…So, when it’s your meeting, ask yourself whether any of your attendees needn’t be there, and suggest to them they don’t need to come. You can always send them any actions arising, of course

Unlike sport, with communication, your aim is to get a mutually acceptable outcome as quickly as possible. So…

Action Point

…identify the 1-2 things others would most like you to change; then, think of easy ways to do so.

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