The importance of the supportive communication and listening cannot be overestimated within the organization. This type of communication helps to build the supportive relationships among the groups and individuals of the company. These skills increase the performance at work and assist the employees with the tools that aid to address the informative and clear messages; therefore make the communication process more effective.
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I taught the skills of the supportive communication and listening to Joel, a friend of mine who graduated from VCU with a degree in political science. Recently Joel works in the Bank of America. The situation included only two participants: Joel, who was going to percept and apply the information about supportive communication, and I, who aimed to teach Joel the necessary skills for the successful execution of job responsibilities. The importance of these abilities, which help to build up the strong interaction, is significant for him. His job position requires regular communication with colleagues and supervisors within the department and among the different units of the organization. Therefore, the development of new skills helps him to establish the supportive relationships with the peers and employer and enhance the productivity of his job performance.
Since Joel started his career at the Bank of America recently, he is striving for the expertise that can provide confidence and improve the interpersonal relationships. This is the reason why he asked me to help him understand and implement the principles of supportive communication. The ability to understand the address without considering it as the unnecessary critique and precisely deliver his message is an advantage and valuable beginning of the career.
The significance of counseling and coaching during the supportive communication emphasizes the advisory basis of interaction. However, there is the difference between two notions: coaching implies the provision of information, which application has to improve the skills associated with the job performance; and counseling assists employees with the tools that “help others recognize and address problems involving their level of understanding, emotions, or personalities.” (Whetten and Cameron 244).
When Joel called me, he said:
- “I cannot understand why my boss is always criticizing my work. He treats me as I don’t know anything.”
- “Maybe, it’s not a critique, but an attempt to help you. You’ve just started to work there,” I said.
- “He provides me with the instructions and advice, even about trifles, all the time,” Joel sighed.
- “Let’s meet and talk about it,” I replied.
This conversation indicates the problem that Joel faced at the workplace. Since he is a novice, his supervisor wants to facilitate him with required knowledge and tools. From Joel’s perspective, the efforts of his boss are the unfounded criticism. The situation has two equally possible interpretations: first, Joel’s defensive mechanism is so strong that he cannot percept advice in a productive way; second, Joel’s boss has the direct approach to counseling without contemplating feelings of his employees. Both possibilities create barriers in the way of supportive communication.
Considering the option that Joel can be defensive even interacting with me, to mitigate this issue and make the process of communication smooth, I chose the familiar and comfortable environment, which is a kind of a ritual for both of us, a matinee in the local movie theater. Thus, before the screening, we could talk about his problem, and I had an opportunity to introduce him the idea of supportive communication and listening.
Since the primary concern was to overcome or, at least, minimize defensiveness and disconfirmation, I shared my experience of practicing the supportive communication. For example, I explained that I tried to perceive the information, which was going from various sources, as a chance to learn more about the topic of discussion and develop my abilities as well. In response, Joel said that he tried hard to implement his supervisor’s guidance, but the boss can find some breaches and reasons to disapprove Joel’s actions.
- “Sometimes I think that he doesn’t like me as a person,” Joel said.
- “Try to be honest about your feelings and doubts. Find a way to tell him that sometimes you do not understand what he wants from you,” I proposed.
- “He doesn’t care about my feelings. He wants work to be done,” Joel replied.
- “Can you ask him to provide feedback about your work and be more precise while giving instructions?” I asked.
- “How can I do it? He’s criticizing me for everything. If I demand the appreciation of my feeling and clarifications, he will be outraged!” Joel exclaimed.
- “How does it sound? – I asked, – Since I don’t have solid experience, I feel a lot of pressure. I know that you try to help me but often I feel criticized without reason. I’d like to solve this problem. – I said, – Can you said something like this to your boss?” I looked at Joel.
- “I can try,” was his response.
This setting illustrates the strong defensive mechanism that Joel had or developed working in the company. He did not want to contemplate the idea that his manager might appreciate Joel’s honesty about the feeling that he had and obstacles he faced. Also, I demonstrate two principles of supportive communication: congruence, which is based on “what the individual is thinking and feeling,” (Whetten and Cameron 247) and the descriptive method, which is necessary for explaining of experience, observation, and responses.
Another skill of supportive communication is the problem-oriented approach, which helps to find the solutions. Since I facilitated Joel with the tool of congruity, we could move to the next ability.
- “I think you should be ready to the conversation with your manager and offer him several solutions to solve the problem,” – I said.
- “Is it a sound proposal: Could you give me feedback on my work performance and assist me with the additional instruction either if I’m doing well or need some correction?” – Joel asked.
Joel lowered his level of defensiveness and tried to find a resolution. Here we came to the validation principle of the supportive communication. I told Joel another story that emphasized the importance of recognition and two-way of interaction. I was struggling with the class assignment and could not properly assess the performance. Stacked with the situation, I decided to ask advice from the instructor. The attempt to communicate with the professor was successful: she listened to the description of my problem attentively, recognized the steps that I had already implemented, and offered several possible solutions that might help to move forward with my assignment. Through sharing my experience, I explained the importance of awareness of the effort by the other part of the communication process.
“Do you think, if I come to my manager and introduce him some ideas, he will listen to me?” – Joel asked.
His suspicion was reasonable because he used the one-way communication model, which implies reception and implication of the information. I offered him the employment of supportive communication, which assists not only in the efficient listening but also in the productive two-way communication process. Being specific, he can express his feeling and ideas about how he perceives instructions, how his work performance can be improved, and initiative that he would like to implement.
After a couple of weeks, we met again. Joel said that applied some skills we were talking about and that his manager was responsive to Joel’s surprise.
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“I was specific and descriptive about my experience and worries. Also, I said that I would like to improve my efficiency. I offered some ideas to my manager and asked his opinion. He said that he was glad that I came to him and openly talked about my struggles,” – Joel said.
Outlining supportive communication through the illustration of the learning objectives by the personal experience is a powerful tool which helps to enhance the level of comprehension and developed required skills. The evaluation of the application of my supportive communication and listening skills via teaching them to a friend of mine can be assessed as successful. The learning process gave Joel the insights about the notion of the supportive communication; thus he can implement them into his professional life and increase the level of work performance and build the strong relationships with the colleagues and managers. The surprising outcome of the practice deals with the enhancement of Joel’s confidence to initiate the communication and express his thoughts and feelings in a more precise way. The practice contributed to the most profound understanding of the supportive communication and listening because I had the opportunity to practice and teach it at the same time.
Whetten, David Allred, Kim S. Cameron, and Mike Woods. Developing management skills. New York: Pearson Education, 2000. Print.