The power of intentional communication

by Nov 19, 2016

Intentional communication is the key to clarity




It’s very difficult for all of us to communicate clearly even under ordinary circumstances. How often have you given what you believed to be precise instructions, only to face a barrage of pertinent questions. You then realise that you had been about as clear as mud. It is even more challenging to communicate effectively when the subject matter might be sensitive or difficult. This is when intentional communication is vital. Originally associated with the communication patterns of infants, Intentional communication has been defined as:


“ the display of communicative signals that are sensitive to the state of the receiver”


Transplanted into adult or business situations the same strategies can support effective communication in the workplace, or any other personal relationship, especially when a tough conversation is required.


 4 great tips for intentional communication in the workplace


  1. Be clear about the preferred outcome

Before initiating any difficult conversation have a good understanding of your preferred outcomes, not just in the short-term but the longer term. What results do you want to see?  Reflect also on mutual benefits. Do you want a win/win outcome? Or is there a need for gain on a particular issue? Focus on shared future objectives and constructive solutions that can be forged between you and the listener. Avoid critical and blaming language as well as aggressive body language.


intentional communication

Make sure your communication style gets the results you want


2. Understand the audience


Placing yourself in the listener’s shoes, understanding what is going on for, and with them is vital. This is not to be sympathetic, but empathetic. You can be understanding without losing sight of the fact that there may be power plays, authority levels or even subtext which has not been fully declared.


Sarah returned from maternity leave to find her boss a changed man. In 3 months he had become authoritarian, was rude and abusive to team members and organizationally chaotic. She finally decided to have a conversation with him that she knew would be difficult. By practising intentional communication she was able to convey that she was struggling with a change in his leadership style. But she also learned that he had discovered that his wife was seriously ill, at the same time as a re-organisation was in the pipeline. He was worried about medical cover. Once she knew the full story, Sarah was able to have a transparent discussion and offer some constructive solutions.


3. Manage the message


Create a game plan for the conversation. Map it out in your mind or even on paper if you need to. What are the points important for you to get across in order to meet your goals? Where are the points of uncertainty? Be clear about where you need to navigate ambiguity to get the clarity you need. Have a good idea of anything that you are willing to let go or compromise on.


Having a mind map or plan will keep you on point

Having a mind map or plan will keep you on point


4. Be assertive


Women frequently receive pushback when they are assertive because it goes against gender expectations of being perceived to break out of the collaborative mould, a female stereotyped expectation.  A good tip is to start the discussion about why you are having the conversation in the first place.


“When x happened I felt….. x, y, z, which impacted a,b, c… so think that an open conversation would be useful.”


An additional factor is if the tough conversation is with another woman, then there could be additional problems. Women can respond to difficult conversations with men differently than with women. Both men and women are reported to prefer to male bosses. Men are perceived to be natural authority figures and have a gender based “right” to give negative feedback. It’s important for women to stay in business neutral and defuse or not engage at an emotional level.  At the same time displaying empathy, will contribute to producing the required result in a healthy way.


Download the Podcast with Nancy Milton How to Cultivate Empathy 
Intentional communication is not an innate talent but an acquired and learnable skill. It is vital for effective leadership.



Want advice on improving your communication style? Contact 3Plus now!

Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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