We do it many times each day.  Brief, long, critical or routine, we engage with other humans.  And, if we are a manager or leader of an organization, those encounters matter.  They matter because the levels of success of our human relationships ultimately determine the success of our business.  We are participating in, and constantly building relationships throughout our day.  We are called to pay attention to our method of conversation, the Process of dialogue, so we can create positive outcomes.

Relationship guru John Gottman provides us with six ‘best practices’ to include in exchanges with other humans. Gottman works in the realm of couple’s relationships, and we can completely apply the principles to our professional life. These aspects of communication will resonate positively with ourselves and the person we are engaging, be it colleague, customer, or vendor.

Let’s break down the first three:

Soften Start Up: How to successfully raise an issue in the first three minutes.

Use more “I” and much less “You” statements. In an emotionally charged conversation using the word “you” will cause the human on the receiving end to shut down their emotions and move towards becoming defensive since they may begin to feel attacked. Instead of …”you are not meeting the quotas and expectations that were set…”   Use…”From my perspective it appears that the quotas and overall expectations that were set are not being met…”Here is a concise formula to use to help move the opening of the conversation to a productive end.

>State what you feel.

“This is a major issue that has me greatly concerned.”

>Share the facts about the situation and how those feed your feelings.

“We are short on the quotas for the second straight quarter which puts tremendous pressure on me.”

>State what is needed or wished to correct the situation.

“We need to come up with a comprehensive plan to catch up by the end of this quarter, and I need to feel confident the strategy can be executed.”

You can communicate urgency and criticalness without making it personal.

Accept Influence: Be open to information from the other side.This requires fully listening to the other before offering up your own viewpoint.

>Let the other finish their core statements of opinion.

>Offer acknowledgement.

Share your point in context of the other’s point. “I hear and can understand why you think the quotas were too high given the market conditions.”

“The market has been soft overall, and we know the quotas are directly tied to our forecasts, which we all decided to keep in place despite the slow first quarter.”

“I certainly am open to your view on how to meet our yearly goals, and we all need to cover how to address our current shortfall to the board.”

Make Effective Repair Attempts: Bringing conflict back to productive dialogue.

Humans will disagree on many topics.  Disagreements often spring rising conflict.  Rising conflict can result in unproductive conversations and meetings.Keep conflict in check through using a list of particular phrases designed to repair the situation when discussions begin to deteriorate.

“I appreciate your point of view, yet I completely disagree.”

(You allow the other to hear that you value their opinion even if you do not share it.)


“It is your right to be upset, and this is certainly a challenging situation….(You clearly state that their emotions are important.)

“We are both passionate about this issue.  Let’s reconvene tomorrow to set our strategy.(You bring the individual viewpoints to a common priority.)

Next time we will go through Gottman’s ‘Deescalate’, ‘Compromise’, and ‘Soothing The Other’ and how to apply to our world of human business communication.