By Paola Pascual on Jun 30, 2021 7:43:15 PM
For most of us, it is very easy to get lost and end up writing a long, complicated email. In this article, we will share very easy tricks to make sure your emails are concise, short, and clear. But first, let's start with the basics!
Basic structure of an email
In business English, it is very common to start with a greeting ('Hi Eve,) and a friendly opening ('I hope you are well.'). Then, you can state the reason for your email ('I am writing to you with regards to...'), and mention attachments if you added any. It is also polite to offer help ('If you have any questions, please let me know'), and add a closing line ('Looking forward to...'). Before you finish your email, add a friendly goodbye ('All the best'), and your signature ('Tony'). You can find lots of helpful email phrases here: 150+ Useful Email Phrases That Will Make Your Life Easier.
Although the structure is not complicated, many English learners (and native-English speakers!) find it difficult to keep their emails concise, short, and clear. The next two sections will help you exactly with that. First, apply the House Technique to structure your emails, and then make sure your sentences are concise with the three tips below.
How to structure your emails with the House Technique
It is not always easy to find the right balance between an email that is long and complicated and an email that is too short. To find that sweet spot, build your emails how you would build a house:
- Start with the walls (the reason why you’re writing and the call to action or next steps)
- Then add the furniture (supporting information)
- And then add the decoration (formalities and niceties).
It is very tempting to start the email the other way round - first the formalities, then all sorts of supporting information, and lastly the question we want to ask our reader. However, there is a major problem with this - we often forget the most important part. Plus, your emails will end up being much longer than desired (and your readers might miss the point).
House Technique | Talaera
Check out this example:
Hi Max, I hope this email is finding you well. In light of the fact that a few of our employees made a request on whether we could provide them with extra training budget since they have more time now that they are working from home, I am attaching a list with my recommendations of some of the best online courses I found and that they can choose from. There is the possibility that your team members do not like any of the courses we suggest. In such event, please ask them to make a suggestion with their preferred training. Please send them the list I attached and let them know that they need to make a decision by the end of the month in order for us to send it to the finance department and get their approval on time. I want to thank you for your great help in this situation. I hope you and your family are well, and that you have a nice day.
The email above is grammatically correct, but the structure is not very clear and you might have to read it a few times before you understand the main point.
And now compare it to the following example, where we used the HOUSE technique:
With the House Technique, emails look more structured and clear:
I hope you’re well.
Could we have a more in-depth discussion to talk about the changes in the HR department due to Covid-19? I am available on Monday from 10 am to 3 pm.
There are a few things I wanted to talk about:
– How are we dealing with company culture
– Options to work from the office
– How we are adapting our quarter OKRs
Please let me know what time works best for you.
Write shorter emails with these concise writing tips
Apart from having a structured email, you can also apply these concise writing tips to make sure that your sentences are short, clear, and to the point: one word better than three, actions better than nouns, and active voice better than passive.
1. One word better than three
Whenever possible, use one word instead of three. Look at the examples below. The versions on the right express exactly the same meaning with just one word.
- There is the possibility that → might
- In light of the fact → because / since
- In reference to → about
- In view of the fact that → considering
- With the exception of → except
- In the event of → if
- [Wordy] In light of the fact that we are all working from home, there is the possibility that we have to do the next event online.
- [Concise] Since we are all working from home, we might do our next event online.
2. Actions better than nouns
Verbs (or actions) will make your writing shorter and more concise. Whenever possible, drop the nouns and use verbs to express your ideas.
- Put under consideration → consider
- Give a decision → decide
- Conduct an interview → interview
- It is the opinion of → think
- [Wordy] It is the opinion of the board that we should conduct surveys with our clients and put their proposals under consideration.
- [Concise] The board thinks that we should survey our clients and consider their proposals.
3. Active voice better than passive
If you use passive voice, your sentences will tend to be longer and more complicated. Use active voice to add accountability and make your message more clear and dynamic.
- [Passive] Some new employees have been hired by them. → [Active] They have hired some new employees.
- [Passive] A new app has been launched. → [Active] We have launched a new app.
Keep improving your business emails
If you enjoyed this article, keep reading:
- 'Stay safe' - How to Send Actually Genuine Emails During the Pandemic
- How To Learn The Difference Between 'Really' And 'Very'?
- 14 Simple Rules That Will Make You A Better Communicator
- Learning Business English? +20 Top Tips You Need To Know
- How To Overcome The Top 4 Communication Barriers In The Workplace
Talaera Talks - Transcript Episode 45
If you are learning English, including new English words and expressions will help you with effective communication. Remember to check out our other episodes on how to make small talk, how to deliver engaging presentations, how to speak English fluently, and many more: visit the podcast website. Listen to it on your favorite platform.
Welcome to Talaera Talks, the business English communication podcast for non-native professionals. My name is Paola and I am co-hosting this show with Simon. In this podcast, we're going to be covering communication advice and tips to help express yourself with confidence in English in professional settings. So we hope you enjoy the show!
Simon Kennell 0:24
All right, welcome back another episode of Talaera Talks. Your host, as always, my name is Simon and wherever you are, I hope you are having a great day. Great evening. Great morning. Paola, how are you doing today?
Paola Pascual 0:40
I'm doing great. I'm so ready to talk about communication with a very, very cool guest, actually.
Simon Kennell 0:46
Right, right, just three communication nerds today. That's how we're doing it. And our guest today, very excited about our guest today, a book that I've just been looking at this past week. So much information, interesting concepts that we're going to discuss today, Dr. Rick Brandon, the founder and president of the respected training firm Brandon Partners. So Rick has devoted 30+ years to designing and delivering leadership and professional development workshops on influenced skills. So these are, you know, political and organizational savvy, high impact presentation skills, self talk, self accountability. I mean, so many of these really critical we used to call them soft skills, but now we call them power skills. That's how we like to say, and Dr. Brandon has worked with several Fortune 500 companies and leaders helping people improve their results and work relationships by increasing the candor, clarity and impact of their communication. He's co authored the Wall Street Journal, best seller Survival of the Savvy - High Integrity, Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. as well, Brandon serves as distinguished faculty for the Institute for Management Studies, and has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at colleges and universities, a PhD in counseling at the University of Arizona, and as well a master's in Psychology from St. Lawrence University, and a bachelor's in Psychology from Case Western Reserve. So today, we are among many things, going to be talking about his new book, Straight Talk - Influence Skills for Collaboration and Commitment. And it's coming out soon. So very exciting time. For you, Rick, and thank you so much for joining the podcast today. I think there's, you know, 1001 things we could start with, but maybe the first we'd love to know is, you know, what influenced you to write this book?
Rick Brandon 3:00
Well, first off, before I say that I am thrilled to be here, thank you for welcoming me into the world of Talaera Talks. It's a blast, and we know from each other and reading each other's bios, as you said, we're all communication nerds. So I look forward to this communication. And I appreciate it. I started feeling pretty impressed myself from that glowing introduction. So I hope I can live up to that standard. So thanks, Simon and Paola. In terms of my autobiography and stepping stones, it brought me to write the book. I actually was into psychology and communication leader early since before I was born. And the reason I say that is I grew up in a pathologic, I like to say I grew up in a pathologically functional family. So it was a very healthy family full of communication. But since before I was born, I was communicating at a cellular level, because I'm an identical twin. So I was into communication and connection, and connectivity. And maybe it's a little corny, but I like to think that there's something at that level that got me into people and communication. Can you believe that God did this twice? To do that. We're all looking at each other, of course, on on Zoom. But I was interested in communication all along. I even used to watch a TV show called the 11th Hour as a kid. It was about a psychiatrist. Who does that out it's 10 years old? So so as into psychology. That's what I studied as you as you noted in my my degrees and my graduate degree, but very early on, even though I was doing counseling work, I realized that I didn't want to be a what's the well a shrink, you know how people view a psychologist. Oh, your hands... Say hello to you. When you say hello to me and and I say hello back and you think I'm trying to figure out what you meant by that. I didn't want to be boxing people in as a shrink them into a diagnostic diagnostic category. I always viewed myself more as a stretch, how do I stretch people's potential and their boundaries and their communication? So I got into that. And for 30-40-35 years now I've taught the skills that you mentioned, the act of listening, communication, getting agreements, conflict management, I took a little detour, as you noted to write Survival of the Savvy, which is less about interpersonal skills, more about political skills. So there's interpersonal savvy and influence. There's political influence, and I, I was thrilled when that book thanks for mentioning that was a best seller. I will never forget. I went Do you guys have Seven Elevens in Spain? I forget. I've been
Paola Pascual 5:43
Unfortunately not. No.
Simon Kennell 5:45
They're everywhere. It's Denmark. Yeah, we have.
Rick Brandon 5:47
Okay. Okay. And Copenhagen. So I went into the 7/11. Store, and I picked up the Wall Street Journal with and turn to the book bestseller list. And I was there and I started screaming. And the clerk said, this guy really must like Slurpees. So. So that was a joy. And so the reason.. And now we come 15 years forward, after I'd been doing a lot of work on political savvy, I realized I wanted to return to my roots of interpersonal skills. And, and the reason was, is I, I it was, I wrote it right as COVID was going on. So I was in lockdown. So I had time. But also I was seeing people so disconnected. So depersonalized. So living a life of social isolation. So feeling disconnected, that it seemed like an ideal time to really return to my roots of interpersonal skills, to connect and to collaborate, and to have commitments with each other to support ourselves through this painful, discouraging time. And it was also ironically, last thing I'll say about that is it was ironic, there was a time when, when COVID was preventing people from taking workshops, even virtual ones because of budget cuts. So what I wanted to do is write the book so that it was a "workshop in a book". So that it was my workshop that I've been doing for decades, embedded into the book. And that's why when you read the advanced copy, which I appreciate you doing, by the way, guys, there's all these exercises and practices. So that's some of why I wrote the book and what brought me to it, I mean am I blabbing too much? How we doing?
Paola Pascual 7:30
It's it's super interesting. And I love how I mean, I also come from a psychology background, and I love how you described it, right? It's not only dealing with so it's not only clinical psychology, so to say it's more there's so much more to it is all the social aspect is such a massive tool that you can implement to different aspects like political science and interpersonal skills and being connected. So yeah, I love that approach that that you gave, and you're totally right with with the book, it did feel like a workshop in a book, I saw that you had some pop quizzes, lots of examples, lots of you know, roleplay situations. So I was it was very interesting to read.
Rick Brandon 8:14
Paola, did it work? Did the technique use work where I say, imagine yourself in the workshop where I kind of teleport you into the workshop? And I'm presenting to you and you're at your table? And I'm talking to you as you're at the table and doing that? Did that come across okay?
Paola Pascual 8:32
Yeah, it actually did. So it's written in a way that it's very direct. And it's almost as if someone was actually speaking rather than having super, super long sentences. And so I appreciated that that writing style.
Rick Brandon 8:46
Super. And I love what you said about psychology, transcending the typical boundaries of, of clinical and I think of it is that from shrink to stretch as being humanistic psychology. And I grew up in the 70s and 80s, doing that work of called humanistic or positive psychology, and how do we control our minds and have a positive outlook, outlook and not be fault finders of other people could be Strength Finders, and then expanding their strengths and potential so I consider psychology the best of it is being part of the human potential movement. Does that click for the two of you?
Simon Kennell 9:25
Absolutely. I mean, I'm totally with you there. And there's so much of, of what we can do with communication is, you know, facilitate that in so many ways, right, is facilitate a positive interaction between people and how do we do that? I'm super interested to learn about your experience of doing this with, you know, professionals with organizations, you know, over the past 25-30 years, I mean, you I'm sure you've worked with with very high level managers, you know, and working on this, there's these basic interpersonal communication skills. We call it I call them basic, but they're not. I mean, it's not something that everybody considered as a basic part of their life, who, throughout all of that time, and I don't want to put you in a box here, but I mean, were there kind of general themes that you saw our general challenges or weaknesses that a lot of upper management had a lot of managers had when it came to interpersonal communication when it came to, yeah, this this, you know, creating positive environments through communication?
Rick Brandon 10:34
Sure, sure. Thanks for that. Yeah. And you're right, a lot of my work was with large companies, conglomerates, Fortune 500, companies, actually, that these courses were, were taught had been taught in literally 75, fortune 500 companies, and they all had in common, certain dynamics that that you're, you're reminding me of, and the first one that comes to mind is, the person becomes a manager, first off at the lower level, and they're promoted not because of their they're promoted, because of their technical expertise they get, if you think of that, the classic definition of management, it's getting results, getting results with going through other people. Well, it used to be that they were getting their own results. And now they're promoted because of their ability to get results through others. And that doesn't necessarily mean that they have that skill set. So here I am managing sometimes the people I used to work with and complain to each other about management together. And now I'm the man or the woman, right who's in charge. And I've got to it's a whole quandary, I've got to counsel them, I have to deal with their complaints and concerns, I have to receive feedback, give feedback, I have to set new direction and delegate, I have to get agreements with them. And not then I have to confront them sometimes, and give corrective feedback and hold them accountable. They are in trouble. So So I found that that was the first commonality across companies, and also in the educational sector, where I did these communication skills, workshops for principals, and superintendents and teachers. So the people part, the, quote, soft skills, as you said, were hard skills. And, and people weren't, weren't you comfortable. And then as people climbed up the organization, it became even more important. And that's, that's back to Daniel Goleman, its work on emotional intelligence, he found that the higher you go in the company, the more important people skills in emotional intelligence are, that it's more than twice as important is cognitive skills and technical expertise combined. So what fascinated me is, it's more important, but the higher you go, you would think people would have it more like you're saying, Simon, the level of upper management, they're just as much bozos on the bus as the lower level managers, because they don't necessarily and they think, and they feel vulnerable in workshops, I would have upper level managers with the lower level managers, and they were more freaked out, you know, the people under them felt vulnerable, because my bosses here, well, the people above them felt just as uncomfortable with new skills as the people below. So no magic to be promoted, higher and higher, unless it's a marketing and sales driven company where people skills are taught and part of the technical part of their task. Am I making sense there?
Simon Kennell 13:29
Yeah, you definitely are. And I wonder if and maybe maybe this is true, maybe you've seen this or maybe haven't that this, this idea has kind of shifted in a way we're, you know, we're maybe hopefully my thought is that organizations are more open to, you know, concepts like emotional intelligence when it comes to leadership concepts like vulnerability when it comes to management and leadership, and how do we engage employees through more of these kinds of humanistic communication approaches, rather than this more traditional kind of top down hierarchical sense. Have you seen that shift at all? Or in organizations? Or, or am I just kind of dreaming here?
Rick Brandon 14:13
You're dreaming, but I like to dream and I'll go with you. Yeah, yeah, that people, you're talking about organizations, especially now waking up to what I call the interpersonal imperative. There's an interpersonal imperative more than ever before, because of how complex things are, how volatile things are the stress that's going on the pace that's going on, the pressures that are going on, it stresses communication, and it means the relationships become more alienated. Now, it's even more true when it with COVID. Because as we said before, people are separated so people don't feel connectedness. So how do we do that with the few times we are together and virtually How can we communicate so we we heal some of that separation and frankly, loneliness that people feel So, have you heard of a book by Noreen Hertz that came out in 21? It's called the Lonely Century. Do you know of that book? She would be an interesting. Yeah, she might be an interesting person to check in with. But she talks about the research says, especially now one in five people are lonely. There's a higher rate of anxiety, depression, and even suicide, and people are more likely to quit more likely to underperform. So a lot of the the answer, not the cure, but certainly people skills and connecting through listening and clear agreements and being there for each other advising and counseling and, and when we have a tough conversation, doing it in a way that's interpersonally savvy, that what you call the emotional intelligence is, is really important now. And if you and if you if you pull it to even conditions that were occurring before, before COVID, if you think I've asked you to to think of the problems you've had at work in the last month, just to kind of cheer you up, you know, and make it a bright, sunny day. Well, for most people, it's two to three number of problems are people problems and relationship problems and tasks problems. And I don't know about you, but are they any the task problems that keep me up at night, people problems, so So organizations are waking up to that interpersonal imperative, because of the stress management needed because of the need to connect the need to have innovation, which demands a free flow of conversation and ideas that where people don't feel stifled. And then finally, engagement, that magic buzzword that's going on engagement has been shown to only be there for 40%, Gallup found that 40% of people felt fully engaged. And the number one reason they left my manager, my communication with my manager, or lack of recognition, those are all people skills.
Paola Pascual 16:55
Yeah. And I'm totally with you, I love how you call it interpersonal imperative, like now, there's truly there is truly a need. And companies are seeing that. And I guess when when that happens, and when companies start to realize that there is the need, then there's there's so much, there's so many buzzwords, and there's so much, you know, marketing around data as well. And I guess that's when it can also get distorted. And that's why I think having these kinds of deeper conversations and having people like you with with 30 years experience and writing these these books, like more in-depth books is so important so that, you know, the concept doesn't get distorted.
Rick Brandon 17:34
So I want to check, make sure I'm tracking you here. Okay. That your your, I think you're putting your finger on the issue that just having the buzzword and saying it's important is one thing, we have positive communication that we strive for. But I think you're saying that that doesn't necessarily mean that they're really doing it or know the requisite behaviors that comprise positive communication. Exactly right. am I tracking? And yeah, so that's where an Applied Behavioral Scientist comes in and applied behavioral scientists, someone who's you know, who breaks down what feels like an art into teachable learnable steps, so that people know what to do, and they can replicate it. That's what I love about the work that all three of us do.
Simon Kennell 18:20
Not and I think, Paola, you touched on something right there with with the kind of buzzwords and things like that is, is especially in HR, and being an HR practitioner, I can put my hand up and say I've probably been guilty of this, but the whole use of buzzwords, and I mean, people talk about emotional intelligence, and then psychological safety, and then, you know, all of these things that we're doing in in a organization to make, you know, people feel more included to make them more engaged. So much of this is, it is really difficult work what you do, right? It's, I mean, the training of, you know, to actually get people to mindfully consider how they communicate, is really, really difficult, especially in this environment that you're talking about, that's constantly changing, very stressful, you know, when we just want to get something done that, you know, a lot of times the last thing we're thinking about is mindfully communicating to someone about how we would like that to be done and if we can work together, right. And so this training is really, really difficult. And, and I think it's something where Yeah, unfortunately, maybe it is easier to just say that we value this, right? Not so much that we're putting in the real work and time to do this. And I think I would be interested to know kind of, from your, your perspective, because I know we want to focus on to really kind of more distinctive points today. One being feedback, right and how feedback processes happen. One of the I've just read the culture code by Daniel Coyle. When he talks a little bit about this concept of how important it is, in very effective teams, the feedback process and how that works. What's been your I mean this because this takes up a big part of your book, what's been your experience with how people give feedback? How are we? How are we taught to give feedback? You know, and what have you seen with with just in your experience of how people give feedback and what they can do to improve that?
Rick Brandon 20:27
Sure, sure. Okay, if I just looped back to one, one concept, you said that it's very hard to learn these skills in a way that isn't fluff or buzzword or over general. And it reminded me that that I do think that two different problems can happen. Some people, you use the word guilty, I believe you use that if my hearing skills are good. And I think that's one of the two responses the person who goes to the workshop, and they're learning these skills, they are hit with awareness, and suddenly they're aware of how much they suck at this potentially. It's kind of like going to a golf game, and you're just not lousy golfer. And, you know, ignorance is bliss. I'm just Duffin over here and our tennis. And then you go with someone who's really good at you take a lesson and you look realize how lousy you were already. And that can be a real that awareness is the first step like you say, and I want to learn these skills. But there can be a lot of guilt that goes on which which we have to deal with the emotionality of learning a new skill, people feel guilty. So I like to say, let's not make a guilt, let's make an awareness. My mum was a travel agent for guilt trips, I'm not into guilt. So let's, let's not feel guilty, but the second response is the opposite, where they have a hyperactive ego gland. And they feel I don't need this and they're offended. So they can either be passive and guilty, or aggressive and mad at the trainer or the coach. I don't know if you've ever run into that. And in the coaching you do in a second language. Does that fit for you? Before we get into the feedback, it just caught me what you said.
Simon Kennell 22:03
It definitely does. I think the awareness concept really being hit by that is a big thing. Especially when we talk about communication. And a lot of a lot of the not a lot of the some of the professionals that we work with, it's like they've gone half of their career without actually discussing, you know, cultural differences in the workplace. And then, you know, when we sit down and break it down a little bit, and then all of these different memories, start slapping them in the face of like, oh my god, I was so rude to this person, or oh my god, I must have sounded like such a jerk to that person. And so that that awareness definitely happens. We're maybe fortunate that most, I think, all of all of the students that we have actually want to want to work with Talaera want to, you know, come to us voluntarily so so, you know, we're lucky that we don't, I don't think experienced that too much.
Rick Brandon 22:58
Yeah. So you're over that hump, then it's just a matter of dealing their awkwardness with learning the new skill, which is uncomfortable, including giving feedback, see what I did there. So yeah, I don't mean to get off on a rant there. But but that is interesting the dynamics of the learner the psychological readiness to learn what gets in the way. So feedback, I'll never forget how important feedback is. And I haven't read coils but but I will thank you for sharing that with me. I'll never forget hearing Ken Blanchard speak at a conference. And he said it's the the audacity that people don't need feedback, it would be like going to a bowling alley in bowling and imagining that there's a screen in front of the pins. You never knew. You never knew how many pins you're not done. How long would you feel motivated? Right, right. So so feedback is critical. And then we get into is it done in a constructive or destructive way? And what kind of feedback is I think people need positive feedback to reinforce that's been shown to be more important than corrective feedback, you get more growth in direction by by the strokes and you know that if you ever have a dog that you're training, right, or a child and your employees are just kids with bigger feet, so so we need to really understand the power of positive feedback, positive reinforcement, again, not in a BS global fluff way. But when you did this, name it when a camera would see behaviorally. Here's what you did even positive feedback. I don't want to tell you hey, you're a great team player. Okay, well groovy. But that's, that's, that's global praise. What are you doing that comprises being a team player? Because that might be something different to you paler than it does to us them and maybe to you it means I contribute ideas in a meeting to Paul it might mean that you share that you speak up and you share information about the customers with the new salespeople. So They understand whatever the team team means. So it's positive feedback, corrective feedback, but also the toughest kind of feedback to give, which is work to hold you accountable. Because you broken an agreement, you broken a standard, a quality or standard or productivity standard, or worse, you broke a commitment that you made to meet a pattern of broken agreement. Everyone else is keeping the agreement you're not. Most people are okay with coaching feedback, if you first set the standard, and you've you've taught them in a training or in a coaching or information sharing now they're not doing it right. So they're expecting it, I still want to ask, can I give you feedback? I don't want to give unsolicited feedback. It's implied if I'm your manager that I should give you feedback, I still say that's called cookies. At that time, are you ready for my feedback? Is it okay? If I give you some feedback? And what I want to do is three things in terms of just coaching feedback, I want to ask for permission. Then secondly, I want to ask you what you thought went well, and what could be even better. So I facilitate self feedback. And then I want to give my feedback, those two kinds first, what are you doing great, what's hit the ball out of the ballpark? What could you do better? So I want to ask permission, I want to do facilitate self feedback. I want to give you positive feedback. And then any improvement. I mean, we like to call it correct. What's your growth edge to growth? And so that's all for
Simon Kennell 26:30
me to interrupt. But I'm just I'm really curious why asking for the self feedback first, before you give your feedback?
Rick Brandon 26:39
Well, I believe that you probably a couple of reasons. One, you probably know what you did well, and what you were uncomfortable with. And so if you hear the words out of your own mouth, and then I can add more to support it or something you haven't thought of does a couple of things, it makes you less defensive when I'm giving you corrective feedback or improvement feedback. It also gives me a clue about your critical thinking and your self awareness. As a manager, don't you want to understand? Is this person blind? Do they have self blind spots? Or are they hip to what what what the issues are for them? Do they have a self awareness and self regulation to know what they're working on? And it makes us and also thirdly, it makes us more of a team rather than, like you said before, you know, top-down Command and Control I am God, I have unsecured we're both a team trying that's the subtitle of Straight Talk, influence skills for collaboration and commitment. I want you to feel comfortable and collaborate in whatever behavior change that you need to do after my feedback, because otherwise, it's not commitment. It's compliance. Yeah. Does that make sense? That's it. So So that's everything we're talking about now is coaching feedback. And even that can be tricky. We're saying, so I want to set the standards first. So I'm giving you feedback, hopefully about something that we've already talked about, or a new issue that we haven't talked about, but at least I've tried to set the bar like you've been to a training or read the manual, or you shadow or I've coached you before now we're now we go to a sales meeting. Afterwards, I want to do a debrief at the curb or in the car, I asked you it's okay. If we talk about debriefing. Pretty soon that will get you'll get used to me giving you feedback. But first or second time or anytime I still want to say, Okay, if we do our debrief, then facilitate the self feedback give you positive feedback, if you correct to feedback, how does that sound? So I don't know if you guys have had coaches that have either done that or not done that it might be interesting to hear your reflections on that.
Paola Pascual 28:41
I love that first step of asking for self feedback. It's such a great, almost like a way to get in there buy in and having that conversation. So that's great. And then having that you know, the positive part of the improvement section, there's a part in your book where you also ask people to provide just the facts. And I think this ties back to there's this, one of the many cognitive biases that we have is this fundamental attribution error where we tend to judge others on their personality, but we judge ourselves on the situation. So for example, if someone's late, we will think, Oh, they're very unprofessional. That's their personality. But when we are late, it's because of the traffic. We're not unprofessional. So I think that's one way of and I love the the pub quiz that you have in there to check if your language is actually biased or not. I think that's such a powerful piece of advice there.
Rick Brandon 29:42
Thank you. Yeah. And bias free is sometimes called behavioral or objective language when I'm giving you feedback. Again, I'm not saying I'm not saying you're unprofessional. I'm saying you're 10 minutes late. I'm not even talking about why but but it because if I don't use bias free language and then it's about my communication that about your behavior. So I want to use objective what would it camera have seen as a camera test? Or just the facts, ma'am detectives and just the facts, ma'am. Don't want opinions that's not allowed in court. Not that you're on trial. But we want to be able to know beyond a shadow of a doubt. What happened? And I don't know that you're unprofessional. I don't know that you I'm not trying to give you input about your feelings, your motivation, I'm not trying to diagnose, I think the reason you're doing this is you have an issue with authority. And clearly, when you spoke out of turn, you'd have an issue with, I'm not an amateur psychologist back off, right? So so I want to be non inflammatory, it's not judgmental, it's not about put downs, you might not like that I'm giving you feedback about the report had these five typos, but you can't disagree with it or get defensive. But if I say this is sloppy, well, 10 People might agree that but it doesn't help me get your buy in. And I've created defensiveness just by how I give you the feedback by not setting the standard. And then by using language that doesn't tell you here's what here's, it's some people call it a three part I message, you guys have heard of this out of the wazoo, you know, here's the, here's, here's how I feel about this, it's going to be in there somewhere. Here's the behavior, here's what a camera saw that you were doing. Here's the negative impact of that, if it's corrective feedback, I also do that with positive feedback, here's what you did. Here's what a camera would have seen. Here's the impact of that impossibly how I feel. So people don't like sharing the feelings especially. So that so how I taught that bias free language and plugging it into a three part iMessage. When you do such and such, such, I feel such and such because and then the positive, I'm sorry, the actual cause and effect, the tangible impact on me, the accuracy, the team reputation, the customer or clients, attitudes, loss, et cetera. So So we're now talking about preventing defensiveness, when I give feedback by how I give it both in coaching, but especially now we're talking about confronting someone's negative behavior over and over again, they break an agreement or maybe it's one one behavior that's so egregious, they cuss at clients meeting in inappropriate ways. So I need to use that three part message. And then I got to deal with the defensiveness because you're going to even if I'm trying to remove defensiveness, you're gonna have
Paola Pascual 32:26
it because I was just gonna ask how do you how do you deal with that?
Rick Brandon 32:30
The defensive this piece? Okay, so first thing I do is I try to prevent it with my language, and by having a previous upfront discussion, so you don't say, Well, you went over talked about that. So we have talked about it, not just in the original agreement, where I set the standards or got your agreement, but also, if you blow it the first time, you don't want to start confronting right away, you know, To err is human to forgive the vine. Not like me, Wade said, To err is human, but it's divine. No, To err is human, to remind divine. Okay, and so I remind you before I confront, and then if you keep doing it wrong, that everyone else is keeping this commitment and agreement or standard. Now I have the right I'm not doing my job if I don't confirm, so I say it with the iMessage with bias free language. Now you got to deal with your defensiveness. The first piece of that, which fascinates me is most people think of defensiveness in the wrong way. You have to, we have to change it with me, you have to do this. No, I believe it's helpful. It behooves you a word I've never used in a sentence before it behooves us all. To to change my mindset. It's the internal change. So I'm not hooked or take your defensiveness person, you're gonna get defensive of either fight or flight, break down cry or, or, or want to leave or distract me change the subject, or just be silent or fight. You know, where you blame me you blame other people you threatened me? You said, well, then maybe I should just quit you know, you start to manipulate or yell at me. So I need to change my mindset that you're not doing that on purpose. You're having strategize and planned to manipulate we let's see, how am I going to be defensive to Rick, my definition of defensiveness is it's an automatic, physiological, emotional and behavioral reaction to perceive threat, attack or loss. Let me say that again. It's an automatic, physiological, emotional and behavioral reaction, a natural response to perceived threat loss or attach once I look at it that way, it then I'm less likely to take it personally. If you lie to me. That's an alternative fact. But let's not get hooked by the literal truth of what you're saying. Let's look at the psychological and emotional truth. You feel threatened, even if you could, because you know that you're wrong. Right? Hey, I've reminding you even but people still get defensive having you guys ever gotten defensive even if you act like a kid, or you do things that you wouldn't say to other people in public? Does that make sense that you that we sometimes act that way? We're not proud of it, but we got defensive.
Paola Pascual 35:18
Yeah, for sure we do. But having that detachment of this is the situation. This is the the emotional reaction versus okay. This is what I as a rational human being actually thinks. So, getting down or like going back to that rational side of people, I guess, is what, what has
Rick Brandon 35:38
and you use the word rational that my point is, at the moment that I give my message to you, even if you know, you're wrong, that feels like that message is strong. Here's what you did. Here's how I felt about it. Here's the negative impact. That's a powerful message. And so you're going to get defensive and it's no different than the caveman gets defensive fight or flight to get away from that saber-toothed Tiger and, and the blood, it just like in caveman days, is not going to the brain for rational conversation in hearing it. and problem solving. It's going to the extremities like the caveman to, you know, to fight or flight. And so I have to change my self talk and saying, okay, he's not lying to me. He's feeling defensive. He is lying to me, technically, literally. But the psychological truth is he's scared. He's threatened, he feels loss of face. And so I need to pay attention to the emotions and attend to them. And the way I do that isn't to push back on you. Because if I push you with my hand, your automatic response is to push back, you didn't strategize it same is true with the line or with the changing the subject or whatever the fight or flight is. So I need to listen down the feelings I need to use the act of listening to chapter four and five that you guys read about. Thank you. I appreciate you investing the time and energy and expertise, but I got to paraphrase your thoughts and your feelings. So you don't think I'm being fair to you, Joe? It's feels like I'm confronting you and I'm not your boss. So who the heck am I to be calling you on this or giving you feedback when I don't manage you? You look like you're kind of steamed at me. You're doing right Oh, yeah. You know who the hell are you you're not like, now I need to paraphrase again. You're not done the pipes are clogged. I don't want to try and reassert my message, my my my feedback or confrontation until I've listened you down because the pipes are clogged with emotion. And there's nothing going to flow rationally. If the pipes are clogged, I call the act of listening skills. I call it interpersonal Drano. Do you guys know what train? Oh, yeah. And uncollapse the plumber packs. So those are some of the things to think about with defensiveness to prevent it by having the previous meetings where we talk about whatever the issue is to prevent the issue, then to have a reminder, then be careful of what I say that three-part I message and then to change myself talk about the meaning of defensiveness, so I don't get up and take it personally, and push back, I push you again. And now we push and we escalate versus I'm going to listen it down, you will not be mad at me or you will gradually calm down and be ready to work on this solution, you're not going to say stop trying to understand my feelings. You know, it's like fighting fun, they're not going to fight it, it will feel like you're giving up control. But it's kind of like going fishing. If you've got a big fish, you don't really know when you give it line. It's counterintuitive. You give up control to stay in control, is that when you think about what I'm suggesting, it's like
Paola Pascual 38:37
swinging doors we've we've talked about this analogy in previous podcasts where we you know, this swing and doors we have to push to get through it, the other person is also pushing through, it's really hard, like you get stuck and the communication doesn't flow. There's no way anyone is gonna get through. And so sometimes it's important to back off a little bit, let the other person you know, get their way in and then that's when you're able to do your thing.
Rick Brandon 39:04
Yeah, we're aligning, we're I liked that analogy of the swinging door. We let them into the conversation instead of a monologue over and over when here's what you here's everything you've done wrong on this since before you were born. And, and and you're getting defensive and I want to hear it. I want to invite you to feel like you're you're losing but you're not because you aren't going to take your turn, and you've earned the right to respond. They're more likely to hear you if you first hear them again, not just at the thought level, but how do they feel about it? Even if they're not saying it, you can see it. They're screaming at you with their mouth shut. You want to pull that out? You look really pissed off at me, Rick, you really look pissed off. I mean, Simon, so you want to give them permission to say it because it's just because if they don't say it, that doesn't mean it's not there and the pipes are clogged. You're not going to hear my message. So thanks for that swinging door concept. I love that. You liked it.
Simon Kennell 39:57
How much of this Have you seen just In your experience about establishing trust, before you get to this, because we talked about laying the groundwork, right for for even before you get to this situation. I mean, it seems like you have really healthy cultures where feedback is done in a, you know, an intelligent way in a mindful way. Have you come across, just in your experience, groups or managers who have helped to shift the feedback culture in their team? Because it seems like, at least for myself, if I'm going into a new team, I want to trust that there is an open and healthy feedback culture, because if there isn't, then I know, my own personal kind of fight or flight is flight. You know what I mean? Like, I'm out of there, I don't even I'm not even going to fight in the conversation. I'm just gonna say, alright, like, you know, I'm gonna, I'm done with this. Right. So so how much does play a role even before we get to this to this point?
Rick Brandon 41:03
Yeah. And how do we cultivate that trust, because that's bad, too. That's a cool buzzword. And of course, it's, it's essential. It's, it's, it's, I'm not gonna say everything, but it is. It's pretty much everything, because of the trust isn't there? You know, we're in trouble. So So I earned the trust by being vulnerable in a meeting my mistakes. Wow, that really does it. I'm not a command and control back to what you're saying, the old school, you know, Theory X management, I'm the boss and I say what's so. And I don't have a conversation about it that breaks stress. So it's a two way dialogue, collaboration, subtitle Straight Talk, influence skills for collaboration and commitment I have, I don't just write you a memo. If we're one on one, I don't just say here's what I expect. Because an expectation is not the commitment or an agreement and expectations one way and a monologue, an agreement is two way so I build trust by asking you that swinging door in an agreement discussion? What concerns do you have about what I'm asking you to do? And I really hear it, and I active listen that to upfront discussion. And now if I partnered with you to remove that barrier, or give you a rationale of why this is important, you feel involved and committed. So we build that trust. So the bottom line is if I come off as a distressful boss, because I don't have dialogue, a monologue, or we're doing vlogs, and I don't have conversations, it's not fair for me to then give you negative feedback. If I haven't set the standard back to the bowling analogy. And I become like that command and control. That's aggressiveness that's aggressiveness, not building trust and commitment. It's building compliance. I will never forget the guy, I'll call him samurai supervisor. He didn't agree with anything that we're saying. And I said, so you know, he was he was an SOB about everything, demanding it, not having dialogues, and just putting people down. When they did things that were off the tee, he hadn't set the standard of people don't read minds. It was really partly his fault. But not having these upfront conversation. I said, so, so done. So Sam, alright, so Sam, how many people you have working for you? And he said, oh, about half of them. You know, people quit and leave literally talk about the great resignation, we're causing some of it, or worse, they quit and say, they don't physically resign and leave. But they've resigned on the job because they don't trust me. There is no trust, and I'm, I'm part of the problem.
Paola Pascual 43:37
They check out emotionally. Yeah,
Rick Brandon 43:39
yes. And they spread it too, because they're talking about. So these back to the interpersonal imperative trust is imperative upfront conversations, reminding people giving feedback and a fair, objective, bias free way and knowing how to handle the defensive reaction. Because if they don't have it, check their pulse. Because they're probably did we all we all feel it.
Paola Pascual 44:03
I have a question for you both. And I don't want to open up a new whole discussion, because I know, we've we were already taking up quite a lot of your time break today. But on the topic of handling defensiveness, I've heard many experts say that when you give negative feedback, you should do that in person, like life even like either through a video call or actually face to face. And as someone that I deal better with written text, what do you think about that? Giving that almost like a heads up on okay, this is the feedback that I'm about to give you. And then you actually have the discussion. And that's a way of preparing people. That's what I feel works for me, but I don't know from both of your I would love to get your opinion on. Is that a good approach? Or should you just say, speaking,
Rick Brandon 44:57
What's your take, Simon? He says no one right answer, you know, the and by the way, the answer to every question in the workshop, you know, is it depends on the people involved? Or the other the other answers are, we'll get to that after the break. What is the group thing? Or my favorite? It's in the book. But what do you think Simon? And then I'll share my couple of my thoughts.
Simon Kennell 45:20
You know, I think, because Talaera were completely remote team, right? So we, I, I'm playing around with this a little bit more. And I'm really, I feel more comfortable about it on my end, but it's the the kind of transfer away from messaging, whether it be emails and slack messaging to short voice messages. So like, we use Slack, right as our internal comm. app, right. And more and more, I'm using short voice messages. Because I don't, I'm never happy with providing negative feedback if I need to about something or, or if there's something that could have been done better, or something that needed to be different. I'm never totally happy about the way I communicated, written. And I just feel like there's something about there's obviously, you'll know this, and you talk about it in your book, but there's so much of an importance around tone of voice in how you communicate that when it comes to providing negative feedback, or if I asked for something to be a little bit different. I'm, I'm sending a voice message to that. And, and this is something where I think it's interesting, because I've had it sent to me, where if it is negative, or if there needs to be something different. I will listen to it a second time or third time. And I always feel better that second or third time after I listened to it when I realize I have that small instinct of like, oh, like I screwed up with this thing, right? Or, and then I listen to it a second or third time. And then it's like, okay, no, like I'm telling you, but I can hear in the tone of her voice or in the tone of his voice, that he's not upset at me that I didn't do something wrong. Like, it's just something could have been done differently. That's okay. All right, great. And then let's move forward. I don't know I'm playing around with this concept. I don't know what you think about that?
Rick Brandon 47:22
Well, it's just every person's reality is different. The two of you are even talking about differences. And, and Simon, you said a few things that I that triggered some thinking on my part and, and the first one is the piece about not having tone of voice. You also don't have the visual, I can't see your real reactions, I can't see your eyeroll that I better paraphrase you looks like this, this is coming out of left field for you. And I can't hear the tone of voice. So that's as me looking at your reel, if I'm giving you feedback. If I'm online, if I'm writing it to you, I can't see your reactions, when you get it, I can't even if I'm on the phone with you, I can't see your reactions, I can at least can hear your tone of voice. So back to your original question, Paola, my first choice if at all possible. Now you'd like things in writing. And there may be other reasons so that you can read it over and over again, you know, so you're less likely to be defensive. If you can read it over and over again and think about it. Some people they read it, and they get even more defensive if they didn't like it in the first place. So it depends. But for that reason this is my bias is sometimes we don't have we can't have a face to face. So at least I want to try and have a video conference like this where we can see each other, we can't do that now we eliminate the visual, let's at least have the vocal and the empathy by having a phone call. If that can't happen, then of course, my fallback is to not just forget about it, but to have it in writing. So those are the reasons why I prefer beat not being just a written text or email. I'll give you a thought on how to do that, which you also talked about Simon, but this goes to the research of Albert Mehrabian you may be familiar of in your psychology studies. He's the guy that in presentation skills, he you know that the point of impact a person's message and emotional meeting is only made by 7% or 7% of the words 38%. It comes through the vocal qualities and visual images and clues are 55% of the message. So so if I want there to be all of that 100% impact. I don't want just the 7% of the words through a text or an email. So if I do have to just use use text, then I like what you said. Simon, you said back and forth. Sorry, short conversation so there might be a quick voicemail that says or even then email I think is true. First ask permission to have the conversation to give, share some feedback, I want to share, I don't want to I actually don't want to use the word negative feedback, I'll use the word improvement feedback, as well as what I loved about it positive just a feedback. So you're not defensive at the start. And then I hear back from you Sure. The next email or voicemail, I'm going to maybe there's even multiple ones, like you said, but I at least want to reference back to the previous conversation, as we learned in the customer service, customer contact, training that Joe had us take blah, blah, blah. So what I liked about that, OR, AND, and OR What concerned me about what what you did was using the three part I message, what am I going to do first though, if I want to in writing, I could even ask for you set yourself feedback. First, I see you nodding. But I want to get back to what you really like. Like why not? Before I give you my feedback and write you that I'd be interested in what you thought. And I do have some some good news and some correction news, I let you know. So it's not like I'm pulling my punch, you know that I have both sides. But why not ask the person first. Now again, for the same reason is face to face or phone, you're going to be less defensive. Wow, that and I can stroke in, congratulate you. And thank you for being so self aware. And I'm really glad you thought of that thought of one other thing. So I don't need to repeat the negative feedback that you give yourself. So that's cool. So anyway, I'm just brainstorming like you are as we talk, but what do you take away from this? So this this part of our conversation, I really liked
Paola Pascual 51:37
how you combined. So yeah, asking for permission is something that can be an easy thing to apply. But that can lead to many, many benefits in terms of providing feedback. And I loved how you implemented that in my in my situation, right? Where I do prefer to be somewhat warned, so that I don't get defensive and the moment so by asking for permission in writing, I already know what topics you want to talk about. I've already given it some thought. And then I'm ready to have that in-person live conversation. So that's great. That's really good. We wanted to talk about conversational Aikido, but I'm afraid we've pretty much run out of time. I really, really would love to encourage listeners to read your book.
Rick Brandon 52:29
What's the name of the book? because I forgot the name of the book.
Simon Kennell 52:34
It's really, really straight talk. You need to read it wherever you are. Straight.
Paola Pascual 52:40
It's awesome. And yeah, this conversational Aikido chapter in particular, you start with Mary Poppins, quote, "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down". And I just thought that was such a great way to you know, to start that conversation. But yeah, this was such an interesting conversation, Rick and I could keep talking and talking with you and discuss in psychology communication, but it's been it's been really great.
Rick Brandon 53:08
Thank you so much. I got a lot out of it, too. I learned a lot. And I loved how we made that conversation and went in directions we didn't even plan on and covered a lot more that way. Thank you. I appreciate talking to you both and I wish you and your listeners a lot of good faith a lot of good skill and then we're not leaving it to good luck that
Simon Kennell 53:28
Oh, absolutely not have somebody out Rick, if people want to purchase Straight Talk if they want to get in touch with you or follow you Where can they do that? So a
Rick Brandon 53:39
Couple of things: my personal email Rick @ the name of my company, Brandon partners, plural B-R-A-N-D-O-N Rick at Brandon partners plural. if I'm in the country, I'll answer within 48 hours. If I'm not, I take a little longer. The second way to contact is of course, Amazon the book Straight Talk. There's a lot of other Straight Talk books, but not the subtitle influence skills Straight Talk influence skills will get you there. The full title is straight talk includes skills for collaboration and commitment. But I would like to give a present to your listeners and you guys without whether or not you buy the book, please go to my my website, which is Brandonpartners.com/straightTalkbook. If you go to Brandon partners.com/straightTalkbook. Yeah, of course you can order the book from there preorder at Amazon it links to it. But you'll have a straight talk self assessment, complimentary whether or not you buy the book and several other tools about straight talk to help you learn about Straight Talk. Even without reading the book. I want to get this way. So those are three ways to contact hope that's helpful.
Simon Kennell 54:47
Absolutely. Definitely check that out. And I think that's something that yeah, people need and want these skills and, and these tools and I think that's an awesome thing. We'll be sure to put all of the The links and everything in the show notes. But yeah, Paola, Rick, thank you both. For meeting up today. I know how to great conversation learned a lot. And I think I think we can now continue on our day and I'm going to try a couple of these techniques. I heard my girlfriend just walked in the door. So I'm gonna I'm gonna go out and just kind of a little bit of conversational Aikido. So if if Yeah, we didn't get to that today, but to all the listeners, yeah, check out the book and check out this conversational Aikido. I think it's pretty interesting. So, Rick, thank you so much, Paola, thank you so much, and to all of our listeners out there as always, keep learning.
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