Can you hear me now?
Communication is more complicated than we imagine. In my role as an intensive care physician I learned that euphemisms or analogies did not penetrate the defensive listening of a parent in distress. In those tragic situations of informing a parent of their precious child’s impending demise, the words used must be direct and leave no room for misinterpretation. “Your child is going to die.”
No softened words about “failing to respond to therapy,” “Taking a turn for the worst,” “Things are not looking good,” etc. could carry the truth past all the denial and defenses built up to protect the parents’ minds from the horror of eminent loss of someone so precious.
In crucial conversations a leader must use direct language. Frequently, the conversation about an employee’s termination elicits a comment, usually loaded with emotion, that the recipient “was never told I would get fired!” This is despite there were a number of meetings and conversation regarding the situations that culminated in a termination.
The conversations of warning and coaching for behavioral improvement must leave no doubt of the consequences, should the advice lead to no improvement. “Betty your behavior does not fit the culture we have discussed with these specific examples, and if it does not change in these specific ways, you will be fired from this organization.” Specific examples, specific changes and a very specific outcome clearly stated have the best opportunity to be received as meant to be heard.