The first time I spoke to my boss about scheduling he gave me three distinct days to work and I agreed. Done. Well that was too easy. Then a week into my internship my boss spoke to me again about scheduling, he had changed his mind deciding instead to schedule me for the weekends. I cringed and tried to fake a smile, “Okay!” I said. After realizing the horror I had agreed to I approached my boss to propose a compromise that would still give him what he wanted but might also make my schedule more bearable. We reached an agreement after tossing several options back and worth. Settled, done. Right?
After five weeks of work my boss reached out to me again with yet another scheduling proposition. He wanted to rearrange my schedule for the fourth time. So why was he doing this? I didn’t quite understand. He was saying one thing while I was saying another. This is when I realized we were having one of those death spirals of miscommunication.
The following clip is a perfect demonstration of what was happening to me. I am in no way endorsing Discover Card.
In the book They Don’t Teach Corporate in College author, Alexandra Levit, discusses nearly everything you need to know to navigate the business world. Levit breaks verbal communication into four aspects. The first component, nonverbal cues, translates to positive body language to convey interest and sincerity. The second is vocal style, how you speak using different tones, volume, and enunciation. The third and probably most important, articulateness, are you saying what you mean. The fourth and equally important component is sincerity which determines the success of your communication, is your professional persona still reflecting you or are you being fake?
Out of these four components it’s easy to see where I went wrong, articulation. In effort to maintain my eagerness and professional persona of a “can do employee” my messages were unclear. You can’t say yes to everything and then shift your position. My advice to myself five weeks ago, prepare in advance for a scheduling conversation and know what you want to accomplish in it. Just like you prepare for an exam you need to prepare mentally for important conversations. Remember all those times you said to yourself, “Forget it I’m just going to do it, I don’t need to study.” Now think about the outcomes of those situations. If you wouldn’t do that for an important exam, why would you do that with your career?
In your next important conversation actively listen to what the other person is saying and paraphrase their thoughts back to him or her to make sure you understand. Then concisely state your thoughts. This is not the time for indecisiveness or ambiguity. Let’s be clear now.