Our blog about communicating throughout conflict
Attorneys are in the business of representing clients. They serve. They're not the boss; they're partners. Nonverbal and verbal communication must match that status.
Sitting in his office, I wasn't there as a consultant or coach; I was there as a client. I'd heard good things about him. People said, "He's one of the best."
But when he put himself on a pedestal, I wasn't impressed. Standing while I was sitting, he literally talked down to me. He wasn't in rapport. And when he opened his mouth, things went from bad to worse.
He started the conversation saying, "Let me tell you what I know because that will save us both some time." I don't think he realized there're two interpretations for that. Neither is fitting for a professional, though.
In law, a lot of information needs to be manipulated. But in order to best accomplish that, we need some context. I mean, you can't just put ducks in a row for someone unless you know if they want them alphabetically or by height! So, ask questions...
One of the hallmarks of a good employee is someone who is willing to bring the difficult things to your attention. It shows ownership and thinking beyond personal responsibilities. Further, stripping people of that ability is a catalyst for conflict, not to mention loss of morale and other costly issues. So how do we encourage this?
One of the best ways is also a key element of effective communication - develop great listening skills. Scheduling, one of the listening skills, can be accomplished without further training. And it's critical for good client communication and staff communication. There's more to it than we may think, though.
When client or staff person asks if they can share something or if they can have a moment, they're asking for focus. They care enough to bring something to your attention or ask for your perspective. In order to respect them, then, it may work best to schedule them for another time. When scheduling, be sure to ask about the nature of the conversation...
Change. It's a dirty word for some people. I mean it can be just rude. And even people who handle change well may find it rude to be faced with change when it occurs suddenly, without context or warning, creating a whiplash effect. This is particularly true if the people you are changing the rules on happen to be your clients.
In a world where so much happens online, change can and does happen quickly. There are many things that can change the dynamics of a team; some of them are out of our control. That's all the more reason to be particularly careful with the ones we do have control over, because when you have happy clients and staff, change may very well be seen as unwelcome and more restrictive.
Take changes in rules, for example. It's pretty safe to say those are likely to mean added restrictions; we are taking choices away from people. Or if we aren't a judge may be. And clients you are dealing with may be used to calling the shots, and would take particular offense...
There are a lot of classes about how to "Deal with Difficult People," and I am concerned that will not lead to effective communication or de-escalation. Though I realize the title may be a marketing ploy, just the assumptions within the title raise doubts about how effective they can be. And if that is a ploy, then it points to the fact that other people are using that term to identify their problem. But are there really "difficult people" in the world? I mean, is that all they are? Or is the use of that label allowing us to get lazy in our response, making our results mediocre at best, not to mention dangerous at worst?
Terms like that suggest other people are the only issue and we can only deal with the people, but that is far from the truth. We can respond in the heat of the moment, and the best response will probably involve collaborating. In fact, that is the epitome of effective communication and de-escalation, not to mention staff communication. Before we can do...