Have you ever had a difficult time trying to collaborate with a partner, group or friend? Does it feel like pulling teeth to get others to come around to your point of view? Often times it isn’t the point that you’re making that is contributing to their resistance, but perhaps the way in which you are presenting it.
In business, as in life, communication is key to creating an effective partnership, and laying the foundation for future collaborative endeavors. Here is one communication strategy that will help you to establish understanding, trust and partnership with your collaborators, and may help you leap to success.
L.E.A.P. is a communication strategy comprised of four principles: Listen. Empathize. Agree. Partner. Developed by noted psychologist, Xavier Amador, L.E.A.P. was originally intended to improve mental health treatment adherence. However, the L.E.A.P. strategy has been adopted in business models to help improve communication and collaboration in the work place.
Active, or reflective, listening is the first, and perhaps, the most important step to this strategy. Listening to your partner’s point of view, providing neither comment nor opinion, allows your partner to feel that their input is valued, while allowing you to fully absorb their point of view. Try repeating what the speaker has said back to them. Not speaking, or providing your point of view is not confirming that the speaker’s ideas or opinions are correct. The point is to gain the speaker’s trust, and demonstrate that you’ve heard what they have said. Active listening opens up the lines of communication, allowing you to fully understand your partner’s concept, and the origin of their ideas, while also allowing you to gather the information that you need to present your own point of view, later.
To empathize is to show that you understand the speaker’s feelings about the particular subject at hand. Use terms like, “I see where you’re coming from…”, “I understand your point…”, or ask questions like “How does that make you feel?” Whether you are having a discussion with your boss, your colleague, your spouse or your child, letting the speaker know that you understand their feelings presents you as a relatable person and lowers their defenses, while opening them up to your ideas and opinions. Now you are ready to actively contribute your input.
Agreeing with someone you don’t quite see eye-to-eye with, even after listening to their point of view and empathizing with them, can be difficult. However, if you’ve listened closely and are able to understand the speaker’s side of the discussion, you may be able to establish a common ground. Try to highlight the particular points on which you both agree, validating their input, and allowing them to be open to your point of view. Then, remaining non-judgmental, present your side. This step, more than the others, is about showing that you are willing and able to compromised for the good of the shared goal.
Now that you understand your collaborator’s point of view and have agreed to all or some of it, it is time to combine efforts to become partners in executing the ideas, or making good on your agreement. Summarize the points that all parties have agree on, and establish a plan to execute the goal at hand. Whether the discussion was regarding a later curfew for your teen, or higher pay at work, ensure that all parties involved are aware of their responsibility, expectations and accountability. But most of all, try to summarize the experience as a collaborative effort for mutual gain, so that you all can work together again.
The L.E.A.P. communication strategy may be the difference in your ability to make new leaps in your business and personal life. Your ability to turn opposition into cooperation will mark you as a trust-worthy, innovative and solution-minded leader. Remain authentic, taking care not to get tied up in method, and always know your intentions before utilizing the strategy. And as always, when communicating, think before you leap!