You Can’t Communicate If You Can’t Breathe

My colleagues and I write all the time about the characteristics and keys to great communication. Many of them are obvious… preparation and practice are near the top of any list.

But there is another component to great communication, that often goes unnoticed in our fast-paced, back-to-back-to-back meeting world.

Time management, and creating a short break between meetings or calls.

Great communication certainly requires preparation and practice. But it also requires a clear head. It also requires management of emotions, and a calm heart rate. If you are constantly rushing from one thing to the next and then to the next throughout your day, you rarely have the time to catch your breath. You rarely have time to calm your mind, or gather your thoughts. And if your prior meeting was emotional or exhausting in some way, you are likely to carry that emotion or exhaustion into the next call or meeting… unless you have a few minutes to gather yourself.

Preparation and practice are critical. But it is equally critical to be able to manage your own head and emotions, and give yourself some time during your day to catch your breath. Once you are calm, you will be more able to access the things inside your head, and communicate clearly. But when we are tired and/or emotional, our reason gets blocked and we have a harder time accessing our preparation.

So, you are probably thinking that getting even a few minutes between meetings would be impossible inside your company. And you might be right. But change can start anywhere on an organizational chart. Think about the meetings and calls that you run or lead, or heavily influence. And think about changing the behaviors within your control, and start scheduling meetings to end after 45 minutes (instead of 60), or 20 (instead of 30). And then end those meetings on time. Try looking ahead on your calendar a few weeks at a time, and getting in the habit of blocking off “do not disturb” time. Let people know that you are consciously trying to allow for a little sanity here and there.

And perhaps most importantly, start some dialogue within your company about how you (plural) manage time inside the organization. Start a dialogue about shorter and fewer meetings for all, about respecting those “do not disturb” blocks on each other’s calendar. Start talking about how everyone should be more respectful of each other’s time, and make a group commitment to prep for meetings better so that they are more effective, and so that more of them end on time. Your people will appreciate it, and over time, the behavior change may spread out across the org chart.

In other words, think about your own behaviors, think about sharing best practices with others, and think about how to create dialogue inside the company about collective efforts to respect time more.

Give yourself time to catch your breath… and lead the discussion about everyone doing the same.

You will communicate more clearly and more effectively. And you will lead towards better behaviors collectively.

Have a great day!

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.