Newsletter Vol. 7, Issue 2
June 2009


Welcome to the Working Dynamics Newsletter. Our goal is to highlight how we can communicate more effectively to have stronger work relationships and manage conflict constructively in the workplace.

I hope you'll find our suggestions useful and contact us when we can help.

Susan Gunn
Working Dynamics

In this issue:
  • About the Publisher
  • If You Don't Talk About It, You'll Act It Out
  • Feedback 4:1 Rule
  • Paraphrase When You Don't Understand
  • CDP Certification Sessions in Richmond and Northern Virginia
  • Note to Subscribers

  • If You Don't Talk About It, You'll Act It Out
    fun image

    If you've identified something as a problem, stew over it, and then decide to keep it to yourself -- good luck! According to the authors of Crucial Confrontations, if we don't talk it out, we act it out! Unwittingly, our facial expressions give us away. And then there are those other non-verbal behaviors that speak volumes - sarcasm, cutting humor, or "looks that could kill." Our mind may have opted to go silent, but our body sends out hostile messages. The better option is to speak up.

    Often, we choose to not have a difficult conversation because we don't know how and fear talking could actually make matters worse. The reality is these difficult conversations are the ones that matter most in our relationships and avoiding them only backfires as the problem gets worse rather than better.

    The good news is there are lots of great books on the topic as a resource. Check out Crucial Conversations or Crucial Confrontations (both written by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler), Difficult Conversations (by Stone, Patton, and Heen), and Fierce Conversations (by Susan Scott).

    Working Dynamics offers training and coaching for client organizations on effective feedback skills as part of teambuilding initiatives. A favorite quote we've borrowed from the experts is "you can act upon your emotions or be acted upon by them."

    Feedback 4:1 Rule

    "If you have a moment, I'd like to give you some feedback." You know direct communication is good. But your stomach just did a flip!

    Why is it that "feedback" conjures up fear and dread? Probably because we save "feedback" for the point when we can't take a negative behavior any longer, we are at our wits end, our fuse is nearly blown. Of course, fear and dread are the predominant emotions for the feedback recipient, as well as the feedback giver, if the word "feedback" only means bad news!

    The answer - put more positive feedback into your culture at work! Experts say that the ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback should be 4:1. Feedback is all about requesting someone stop, start, or continue a behavior. That means we should be giving feedback on behaviors we'd like to see our colleagues CONTINUE four times more often than we request they STOP what they are doing or START doing something in its place.

    Look around and make a mental note of something a co-worker, your boss, or someone who reports to you is doing that works for your working relationship, benefits your team, or you consider an asset. Then, tell the person specifically what the action means to you. We tend to take for granted the many things colleagues contribute to our working relationship and to getting the job done. It isn't intentional. In continually striving for "bigger and better," we skim over what is working in search of what isn't.

    Commit to a 4:1 ratio of positive-to-negative feedback in your organization. You'll have definite gains in communication and you just might smile the next time you hear "I'd like to give you some feedback."

    Paraphrase When You Don't Understand
    team huddle

    Paraphrasing is such a useful tool when we see something differently from how the other person sees it and neither of us appears to budging. By rewording, summarizing, and restating what we thought we heard, we let the other person know we are trying to understand his/her problem. This communication tool also clarifies communication, slows the pace of interaction, reduces emotional intensity, helps elicit more information, and enhances your analysis of the situation. Paraphrasing may also help focus the other person on the problem and reduce repetition.

    The purpose of a lead-in when paraphrasing is to assure the other person that you are simply checking your understanding of the problem. This also affirms his or her feelings, which softens the tension that could be lurking under the surface. Best of all, you avoid falling into the trap of telling the other person how he or she is feeling (rarely does anyone appreciate that). Another side benefit of paraphrasing is you may help the other person organize his or her thoughts and identify the real problem.

    If you can't immediately pull up lead-in paraphrasing lines, here are 10 starters that will work.

    1. "It sounds like ..."
    2. "Is it fair to say ..."
    3. "Let me see if I heard you correctly ..."
    4. "I'd like to repeat back what I've understood you to say ..."
    5. "How about I summarize what I've heard you say ..."
    6. "It seems like ..."
    7. "As I hear it ..."
    8. "Let me make sure I've understood your concerns ..."
    9. "Am I correct the way you see it is ..."
    10. "What I hear you saying is ..."

    Acknowledgements to The Complete Guide to Coaching at Work, 2001, by Perry Zeus & Suzanne Skiffington.

    CDP Certification Sessions in Richmond and Northern Virginia

    Susan Gunn, CDP Master Trainer, will offer two Conflict Dynamics Profile Certification Sessions -- August (Richmond) and October (Northern Virginia). Internal and external consultants use the CDP in their work with various applications including: Conflict Resolution, Leadership Development, Career Development/Individual Coaching, Team Building, Organizational Development, and Change Management.

    The Conflict Dynamics Profile, an assessment instrument dealing with conflict behaviors in the workplace, provides a powerful way to improve self- awareness of what triggers conflict in individuals as well as how they respond to conflict. Based on these triggers and responses, the Conflict Dynamics Profile then provides practical approaches for improving behaviors that promote more effective workplace conflict resolution.

    Contact Susan Gunn for session details for each location.

    Note to Subscribers

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    About the Publisher

    Susan Gunn is president of Working Dynamics, a Richmond, VA, consulting firm. Working Dynamics provides a full range of assessment, development programs, and conflict management services for organizations in business, government, and nonprofit sectors to reach their goals using conflict in its most productive forms. Learn more at workdyn.com.


    "If you're not listening, you're not learning."

    -- Lyndon Baines Johnson


    "If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. "

    -- Booker T. Washington


    "The greatest remedy for anger is delay."

    -- Seneca

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