Communicating with integrity

Ethical PersuasionAbout 20 years ago someone gave me a little book that I still have on my shelf. It’s called The Power of Ethical Persuasion by Tom Rusk, M.D. There are several reasons why I like it as a guide to communicating with integrity.

First, the author makes the point that feelings are facts. For many of us, it’s easier to make leadership decisions that seem to be objective and rational. Considering feelings is harder. Rusk makes the point that leadership is about relationships, and relationships, at heart, are based on feelings. In order to have ongoing communication we need to understand the feelings that are involved and where they might be coming from.

Second, Rusk provides a three-step model for communication that can be very effective. It’s not new – there are many similar models out there – but it’s easy to use as a reminder when things get heated.

Step 1: Explore the other person’s viewpoint.  Take time to reach mutual understanding before jumping into problem solving. Listen for understanding of the other person’s thoughts, opinions, and emotions. You don’t have to agree; just re-state their views until they feel confident you understand. It’s amazing how often people just want to feel heard.

Step 2: Explain your viewpoint. Once you understand the other person’s view, ask them to listen to yours. Explain how their behaviors and feelings affect you, without blaming or being defensive. Explain things as your truth, not the truth.

Step 3: Seek resolution.  Once you understand each other’s views, then it’s time for problem solving. You may have discovered areas of agreement where you can start moving forward. If not, consider alternatives such as:

  • Seeking a neutral third party to help continue the dialogue
  • Brainstorm multiple options, then meet again later after taking some time to consider them
  • Compromise between alternate solutions
  • Take turns generating solutions
  • Defer to the other person if the issue is not a core value for you
  • Use your positional power to generate a solution after respectfully considering their viewpoints
  • Agree to disagree

I’ve used many of Rusk’s suggested resolutions over the years and they have been helpful. What are some of your favorite tools for communicating with integrity?

Dee Anne Bonebright


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