mastering the art of communication

i like to think i’m an effective communicator, verbal, written, and in part, ASL. many years ago in college speech class, i learned that effective communication is 93% non-verbal (55% body language/non-verbal cues, 38% tone of voice) and 7% what is said. this was reinforced in the communication segment of the PMBOK and one of many stats i memorized for the PMP exam. knowing that non-verbal communication resounds louder than any words i expel did not stop me from radiating anger and annoyance during a meeting with my veep and a PM on my team. what i learned in that situation and others to follow is that the LORD has a way of using commonplace situations to teach me HIS principles.

several months ago my veep called a meeting with me and the person on my team regarding a project the PM was managing.  the veep was displeased that the status report had not been sent and he aimed to use the next hour to draft the report and send it to the project team. i was the scribe and clicked away as my veep dictated what he wanted captured in this document. i sat there seething. why am i, a director, sitting with a PM and our veep drafting a status report? my mind wandered to my last company wherein as a PM i routinely wrote and submitted status reports sans my director or veep. further, i was troubled by the ineffective use of my time. around 30 minutes into the meeting, the PM exits to use the restroom and my veep says, i feel that you are angry with me. what is wrong?

through tightened jaws and pursed lips i responded, i’m unclear why it takes a PM, a director, and a veep to draft a status report.

he says, because i am not getting what i want.

at this moment the PM re-enters the room.  I finish the document and the veep says, i would like this report to be sent every week after the project meeting. we nod in agreement, the PM leaves, and i close my laptop. meeting adjourned. the veep says, i would like to continue this discussion. you are angry about something more than the status report. what is it? my first thought was, now is not the time but i meet his gaze and recap our conversation months earlier when he insisted we were not the owners of this project. i explain that although i did not agree i accepted his decision as my leader, however we are now a month later and what i had hoped to avoid was happening: we were the de facto team with full accountability for project success. i also reminded him that months earlier i expressed concern that the PM was not built for a project of this magnitude and at that time he disagreed and I acquiesced. now we are in a situation where three of us are building a status report and attempting to resolve latent project issues.

he sat quietly and drank in my commentary. then he said, what you are saying is, if i had intervened a month ago we would be further ahead. i nodded. he continued, and that may well be the case; i should have engaged in this sooner. but what i need from you is to talk to me when you are angry about things. you and i need to be in agreement on how we manage the team. 

we sat in that room for another 20 minutes or so and sorted out our communication differences; my radiating anger and annoyance, him reading my signals and looking to tamp down the flames. how his style is communicative and collaborative while i prefer to state my position and move forward.

what my veep did in that moment was disarming. he didn’t have to entertain my mood, my prickly demeanor, or my petulant attitude. he could easily have said, great we’ve got what we needed for this week, send this out, and left the room. but because of his investment in our working relationship and his uncanny perception of human behavior (he is better at this than most people) he was unwilling to let the moment pass without righting the ship. one of his favorite phrases is, “do you agree?” and if ever i disagreed we would have a marathon discussion until we arrived at consensus.

i am grateful to him for showing me grace and patience because it forced me to put my emotions on the table, to honestly and openly express what i was feeling so that we could progress as a unified front to our team and colleagues.

i later reflected on that moment and i saw not a veep, a director, and a PM but a man, a woman, and a spectator. i saw myself in past dating relationships releasing smoke and molten lava through my eyes and posture while my partner sat there helpless, questioning, and the spectators (friends, restaurant patrons, family members) watched the eruption.

if we are willing, the LORD can use anything to teach us valuable lessons. through this situation HE taught me three things: 1) when your emotions bubble up and the magma is roiling in your belly, draw upon MY wisdom and seek understanding before trying to be understood, 2) you are wielding anger as a sword but MY SPIRIT is the only sword you need, and 3) you must learn this lesson now for if you don’t, you will struggle against the man that i am preparing for you.

Proverbs 4:7 says,

Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.

sisters, we often think we have these basic principles mastered but then a situation arises and we fall into old patterns that will never lead us to the desired end. i encourage you to be open to the lessons, be teachable, always seek understanding, and remember that we are all a work in progress. instruction comes in many forms and we must be pliable enough, porous enough to allow the Word to sink in and penetrate our beliefs. then and only then will our professional and personal relationships thrive.

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