Four Steps to Direct Communication
By Julie Fuimano, Executive Coach
Do you feel yourself frustrated by the lack
of responsiveness of team members? Or perhaps
you wish your spouse and/or kids would listen
to you more? Often, these frustrations can be
traced to not directly communicating your expectations
or not specifically asking for what you need.
Suzanne was unhappy in her relationship with
her husband. She was upset and frustrated by
his lack of participation with chores. She thought
that he should be able to observe what needed
to be done and then simply complete these tasks
without her asking. When he didn't do those
things she thought he should, she became resentful.
However, she remained silent and would not instruct
him on what needed to be done. Suzanne thought
that if she could see it all, why couldn't he?
Her assumptions about how he "should"
be, her inability to accept that he didn't think
like she did, and the lack of communication
between them, created distance in their relationship.
Her husband, meanwhile, couldn't understand
what was going on. He would ask her to come
to bed and all she could think of was the dishes
that needed to be done, the laundry that needed
folding and the toys that needed to be put away.
These chores may have been in her head but they
certainly weren't in his. And instead of asking
him to help, she would get angry and say "I
can't go upstairs now!" and he, not knowing
what else to do and not wanting to upset her
further, would get out of her way and go to
As a manager, Beth couldn't seem to understand
why people would continue to behave in certain
ways even though the rules were reviewed time
and again. She loathed confrontation and therefore,
her style was to manage people's behaviors indirectly
through the use of memos and reminders in staff
meetings. In leadership, however, people need
clear instructions and expectations for their
behavior. Without it, people behave the way
they think they should and do whatever they
know how to do. And your silence, especially
if the behavior is ongoing, gives them permission
to continue to do what they've always done -
whether the behavior is acceptable or not.
Communication lapses occur in both personal
and business relationships. In order to bring
about the results you want in your relationships
with others, you must learn to speak up and
address issues candidly. There are four steps
to communicating directly. They sound so simple
but with each step there are obstacles that
can get in your way. It takes greater awareness,
lots of practice, compassion for yourself, and
a willingness to try new behaviors - and to
make mistakes - in order to develop effective
1) Identify what you want
This is a big obstacle to successful relationships
and productive employees. If you don't know
what you want, how can you expect others to
know? Stop and consider what it is you want
from this person, or what needs to be done.
Envision the outcome you seek. The clearer
you are about your vision for success, the
easier it will be to share it with others.
2) Make no assumptions
People are not mind-readers. They do not
know what is going on inside your head! Once
you know how you want things to be, don't
assume that other people know what you're
thinking or that they think the same way you
do about how things should be. They have their
own ideas and opinions and priorities. What's
a priority for you may not even be on their
radar. Don't assume anything; validate any
assumptions you may have by asking questions
to make sure all involved parties are on the
3) Ask for what you need
Be clear and specific in your request. Don't
make excuses and don't beg. Many times, people
are intimidated or fearful of asking for what
they want. Fear can be an obstacle to success.
You have to rise above your fear and muster
your courage to achieve what you want. Be
honest and ask for what you need. You have
no control over people's response to your
request. You can only be responsible for speaking
your truth in a way that can be heard.
4) When asking for what you need, eliminate
the emotional energy and simply make a direct
This means your voice should carry no emotional
energy. The inability to manage emotions is
a huge obstacle for most people because they
simply weren't taught the skills to deal with
them. You must handle your emotions separately
from making your request. If you are emotional,
the person is less likely to hear you or may
become defensive or emotional themselves.
Suzanne's resentment could have cued her in
to the fact that there was something she wasn't
doing to honor herself. Resentment is usually
anger at self. By learning to follow these four
steps, Suzanne started to experience a closer
relationship with her husband. He began to look
for ways to help out and their communication
improved as they started to talk more about
other important subjects.
Beth also experienced improvements at work.
Some people initially pushed back when she started
making direct requests regarding their behaviors.
Some of her staff, one in particular, is now
on an action plan to improve her productivity.
It may be effective; it may not, but whatever
the result, the impact will be a positive one
for the department. Most of her staff is grateful
for the direction.
People like direction and consistency. They
want to know what is expected of them and to
be corrected when it's necessary (in a way that's
appropriate, of course.) People want to do a
good job. They want to be great spouses and
great employees. Most of the time people really
just don't know how to be different.
It's your job to teach them by communicating
directly - identify what you want, don't assume
others think the same way as you or that they
know what you're thinking, speak your truth
simply and clearly, and do so without any emotional
charge. People are more productive, happier,
and experience deeper, healthier and more meaningful
relationships when each party is willing and
able to speak their truth directly. As you become
more adept at it, you may need to teach others
how to speak their truth as well. Don't assume
they know how.
Julie Fuimano, MBA, RN is
an Executive Coach with Nurturing Your Success
Inc. She is passionate about partnering with
people as they take the challenging journey
to a new level of success. Clients report making
better decisions, having more time for themselves,
being able to say no to requests outside of
their responsibilities and desires, being better
able to manage emotions as well as conflicts,
and an overall feeling of power and confidence.
If you are discontent or frustrated with something
in your life and are ready to give up the struggle
for something better, or if you have a vision
for success and want the courage and focus to
make it happen, then contact Julie at (610)
277-2726 or write to Julie@NurturingYourSuccess.com
to explore how coaching would work for you.
If not now, when? Fuimano is a popular motivational
speaker, world-renowned writer and author of
the life manual and confidence builder, The
Journey Called YOU: A Roadmap to Self-Discovery
and Acceptance - available wherever books
are sold. Sign up for her inspiring e-newsletter