The high cost of poor communication

Sixty-five to 75% of change initiatives fail.

Seventy percent of the spread between bad and good organizational culture is 100% due to leadership and management.

Sixty-nine percent of the time, people quit because of their boss, not because of their job.

All too often, known risk factors aren’t attended to until they blow up into big problems.

We know all these things. But do we have any idea how expensive this is?

Lost productivity.

Employee turnover.

Poor quality.

Bad service.

Missed opportunities.

Customer dissatisfaction.

All directly impacting the bottom line.

And all because of a single foundational problem: poor communication.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

And that complex.

Statistics are drawn from Gallup’s engagement surveys

gljudson Better conversations, Creating change, Leadership

Change your beliefs, change your life

If you believe…

If you believe that negotiation is hard and you have to be mean and nasty to get what you want …

I want you to believe you can negotiate successfully from a place of empathy and understanding.

If you believe that conflict is scary and to be avoided …

I want you to believe you can hold your own with quiet dignity.

If you believe that asking for what you want is useless (because you never get it) …

I want you to believe that you can develop the skills to ask for and get your desires.

If you believe that expressing the truth of who you are and what you want is too dangerous and will lead to failure (job loss, relationship loss, etc.) …

I want you to believe that vulnerability is a strength and can create amazing experiences of acceptance and success.

If you believe you’re not cut out to be the leader you yearn to be …

I want you to believe you can be exactly who you are and be recognized and honored as a true leader.

If you believe your team is struggling but you don’t know why …

I want you to believe there’s a way to discover and fix the problems.

If you believe you have to schmooze and brown-nose and play the political game to succeed in the corporate world …

I want you to believe that sincerity, honesty, and empathetic communication will help you succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

I stand for …

I stand for freeing people from the fear of heartfelt connection with others.

I stand for speaking from the heart even when it’s scary as hell.

I stand for taking the time and energy and risking the vulnerability of truly understanding each other’s experience so we can communicate empathetically and honestly about what we want and need.

I believe …

I believe that empathetic communication can change the world.

gljudson Better conversations, Empathy, Leadership

The one must-do for successful negotiation


I could end this post right there, because that’s the message.

You must practice.

Practice doesn’t mean scripts; scripts aren’t helpful when things go sideways. And they will go sideways. As military strategist Helmuth von Moltke said, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy,” and as pugilist Mike Tyson pointed out, “Everyone has a plan – until they get punched in the mouth.”

Practice allows you to create an ideal situation in your thoughts and emotions, and then – just as importantly – invites you to explore all the many things that could go wrong.

Practice means you don’t just know conceptually what result you want from the negotiation; it means you’ve talked it through with someone willing to play the opposition – and you’ve also played the opposition yourself and sought empathy for their perspective and desires.

Practice with someone skilled at negotiation gives you the added advantage of being coached to shift your words and try alternatives – and sometimes changing just one word, or rearranging the sequence of the facts you intend to present, can make all the difference in the world.

Practice helps you become less anxious and tongue-tied in the moment, because you’ve spent time – hours of time, over days and even weeks, if the issue is important enough – rehearsing (practicing) what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Practice means that if the other person becomes angry or emotional, you’ll be prepared to deal with it calmly and without succumbing to anger or emotion yourself.

Practice means that even when the plan does go sideways, and even if it goes sideways in a direction you hadn’t anticipated, you’ll be able to think on your feet because you’ve practiced exploring options and coming up with alternatives.

Practice means that if you make a mistake, you’ll have a far greater capacity to adjust and recover.

In the end, practice – serious practice, at the level I’m describing here – means you’ll almost certainly be better prepared than the other person.

And that means the end result is likely to be better than it would have been otherwise.

Practice. It’s worth the time and effort.

gljudson Negotiation

Are you part of the 69%?

Sixty-nine percent.

That’s how many managers say there’s “something about their role” that makes them uncomfortable communicating with their employees.

It’s from a research survey conducted in 2016 by Interact Authentic Communication.

I’d be very interested to know how many non-managers are uncomfortable communicating with their managers. I’m guessing it would be at least 69%, and probably more.

I find this both sad and unsurprising.

We are not taught how to communicate.

Most communication programs focus on public speaking, presentations, conflict management, and traditional negotiation.

They don’t focus on how to connect with someone and truly understand them. They don’t offer tools or even clues about what it means to develop empathy for others or how to use empathy as a crucial skill for communication and leadership.

And yet more and more leadership articles, books, and “best practices” note that a leader’s or manager’s empathy is what makes or breaks their success.

After all, we know that the primary reason people quit is because of their manager, not their responsibilities.

The idea of learning to be more empathetic can be challenging, as I outlined in my last blog post. And yet, what are we giving up, missing out on, or losing because we don’t take that step to open up and learn?

gljudson Better conversations, Empathy

Five common myths about empathy

What do you believe about empathy?

I asked that question on my social media channels, and was fascinated by the range of responses.

1. Empathy is hard (and you’re already overworked and overwhelmed).

Empathy can seem difficult because we feel vulnerable when we allow ourselves to experience it. In fact, though, empathy is a natural part of who we are as humans: our brains are hard-wired to respond to others’ experiences, both physical and emotional, through the activation of “mirror neurons.” While each of us may have a greater or lesser natural talent for empathy, any of us can develop better empathetic skills if we wish.

2. Having empathy for someone means taking on their emotional energy (and you don’t want to feel and have to cope with their anger, pain, or discomfort).

Many sensitive people feel overwhelmed when they allow themselves to empathize with another person. However, this doesn’t have to be the case, even for those who are extremely empathetic. Remembering to stay within our own experience and observe from our own perspective allows us to notice that we’re empathizing with that person over there, rather than feeling something here within us.

3. Having empathy for someone is weak (and no one wants to be perceived as weak).

Empathy is actually one of the most powerful tools we have for creating connection, building trust, and effectively navigating the many challenges in the workplace and in life. It’s a strength, not a weakness.

4. Empathy is inappropriate in the workplace (and you don’t want a reputation for being “fluffy” or overly emotional).

Emotion in the workplace certainly has to be managed, and what’s appropriate in one organization will be inappropriate in another. That said, the ability to empathize with co-workers, team members, managers, and clients or customers is a powerful way to build shared meaning, create community, and negotiate from a position of strength.

5. Having empathy for someone means automatically agreeing with them (and you don’t want to give up your ideas, lose the fight, or be perceived as not being able to stand your ground).

In fact, when you truly understand someone’s perspective – what they want, why they want it, how they feel about it – you have a wealth of information to draw upon in building the case for your own desires. Even more importantly (and fascinatingly!), when the other person feels as if you truly understand how they feel – in other words, when they “feel felt,” as author Mark Goulston, MD, puts it – they become far more open and willing to listen to what you have to say.

All that said …

Clearly, many people find empathy challenging – some because it comes too easily and is therefore overwhelming, others because it seems too hard and they’re not sure there’s any real benefit, and still others because it feels unsafe to be that open to someone else’s experience.

Yet empathy is the single most useful and powerful tool there is for building professional relationships, putting your ideas out there and negotiating for their acceptance, resolving conflict, and, very simply, being truly successful.

gljudson Empathy

Are there alternatives to win-lose negotiation?


Someone wins. Someone else loses.

One person gets what they want. The other person doesn’t.

How often do we “win,” only to discover that it’s a hollow victory? What we said we wanted feels different from the “winning” outcome.

How often do we “win,” only to discover that the relationship with the other person is irreparably damaged?

How often do we “lose,” and feel resentful and angry?

How often do we “lose,” and feel stuck in an intolerably unfair situation?

And how often do we look back and think, If only I had said … done … not done … not said …

What if it didn’t have to be this way?

What if empathy and understanding were part of the conversation, as well as what I want?

What if it were okay to really get your opponent’s point of view?

What if the other person wasn’t an opponent, but instead was a partner in the solution?

I know. That last one is hard to swallow when you’re in a heated conflict or a challenging negotiation. But … what if?

gljudson Conflict, Empathy, Negotiation

Mindset: the new diversity

I read an article recently – and I’m kicking myself for not making a note of where it was and who wrote it – in which the author, a consultant, commented on an executive meeting he was attending at a client site.

The meeting included people of different ethnicity, religion, color, and gender.

Partway through the meeting, the consultant looked around and realized he had to say something about the lack of diversity he was noticing: a lack of diversity of thought and experience.

If I recall correctly, his comment was that “there was no diversity here at all.”

If everyone is thinking alike, there is no diversity of mindset.Click To Tweet

I am not dismissing the need for cultural, ethnic, racial, gender, or religious diversity (or any other aspect that I may have inadvertently omitted).

But wrapped in with all of that we must also be aware that even when someone looks different from us, or comes from a different culture, or whatever it may be, there may nonetheless be a common outlook on the world that makes our thought processes very similar, despite the cultural, ethnic, etc., etc., differences.

And that’s not a good thing for creative problem-solving, ideation, or innovation.

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you haven’t hired well.” Rory Brown, President of Bleacher Report (quoted in Fast Company).

“Have convesations with someone completely outside of your industry or field of expertise. It’s amazing what a fresh perspective can do to your thought process.” Michael Ventura, Founder & CEO, Sub Rosa (quoted in Fast Company).

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” General George S. Patton


gljudson Organizational culture, Success

Are you okay?

Are you okay?Simple questions. The answers seem straightforward. But are they?

It’s a matter of interpretation. And misinterpretation can lead to fractured relationships, undercut credibility, and delayed projects.

The question: “Are you okay?”

Pat: “No.”

Devon: “Yeah.”

What Pat really means: “I have a headache and I’m tired; I don’t feel well, and that’s not okay.”

What Devon really means: “I have a headache and I’m tired, but I’m not lying on the floor bleeding, so I’m okay.”

The question: “How’s that project coming?”

Pat: “Not so good.”

Devon: “Fine.”

What Pat really means: “Dates are slipping, and we’re going to have a hard time catching up.”

What Devon really means: “Dates are slipping, but with some extra work we can get back on track.”

The question: “Are we on budget?”

Pat: “No.”

Devon: “Pretty much.”

What Pat really means: “We’ve missed the mark on a few categories and we need to be more careful.”

What Devon really means: “We’ve missed the mark on a few categories, but it’s nothing major.”

What does this mean?

If you view Pat’s answers from Devon’s perspective, you’ll call the (metaphorical or literal) ambulance, division head, and forensic accountant.

If you view Devon’s answers from Pat’s perspective, you’ll think everything is fine.

If you’re Devon, you’ll stop believing Pat once you realize that most of those answers are (from Devon’s point of view) annoyingly alarmist and overly dramatic.

If you’re Pat, you’ll stop believing Devon once you realize that most of those answers are (from Pat’s point of view) dangerous understatements and overly confident.

Who’s right?

Who’s wrong?

gljudson Better conversations

Does empathy belong in the workplace?

Does empathy belong in the workplace?What’s your biggest challenge in feeling understood?

Not just thinking or believing that the other person understands what you’re saying.

Truly feeling understood.

Does that seem like a weird question?

I ask because for each of us as individuals, the deepest goal of communication is to feel (not just “be”) understood. This is more than intellectual understanding; it’s the experience of connection with another person that’s typically referred to as “empathy.”

We all have things we want to accomplish, and communication is an essential part of achieving those goals. We might want to get support for a project, brainstorm an idea, request help from a family member, ask for a promotion or a raise, and so on.

But behind that – indeed, all around that – is this desire to be felt, to experience empathy and connection, to be understood on a deep, nonverbal level.

The deepest goal of communication is to FEEL understood.Click To Tweet

There’s a myth that emotions don’t belong in the workplace, and empathy is certainly not a common emotion even in the most open organization. Nonetheless, imagine what we might be able to accomplish if leaders, executives, team members, and colleagues within an organization could actually reach an empathic level of understanding with each other.

Imagine, too, what might happen if marketing teams – whether in your organization or any other – had that depth of understanding about their customers.

I’d suggest imagining what might happen within government, between political parties, and between countries … but I’m not sure anyone’s imagination can go that far.  Still, what a different world it would be!

What’s your biggest challenge in reaching that level of understanding?

What can you do to offer this gift of understanding to others – even if they’re not at the top of your list of the most empathizable (to coin a word) people in the world?

gljudson Better conversations

Are you … manipulative?

What do you think: are you manipulative?We are ALL manipulative

I wish there was an easy way to pause the display of this page for 60 seconds for you to think about your answer – and not just your answer, but the whole experience of reading the question and then answering.

What does the question feel like? Where does it land in your body? What feelings and emotions come up?

“Manipulative” is a powerful word packed with a lot of meaning – and a lot of those meanings aren’t especially positive. After all, everyone has had at least one unpleasant experience of being manipulated in some way, whether by a family member, a boss, a co-worker, or someone selling something.

So when you answered that question – are you manipulative? – was it an experience of “Ewww, of course not”?

Or “Well, maybe sometimes, but I try not to be”?

Here’s the thing: we are all manipulative.

It’s impossible NOT to be.

In my last post, I wrote about how words matter. In it, I told the story of a friend whose partner asked her to please “water the baby peas” rather than “water the garden.”

Why? Because my friend is a sucker for “baby” anything, so “baby peas” was much more likely to get the desired result.

Is that manipulative?

Of course.

Every word choice you make – whether you want it to be or not, whether you like it or not – is manipulative.

We all do a great many things without thinking about them very much. Choosing our words is one of those things.

If we took the time to understand the other person, and therefore had more empathy, and if because of that we chose our words more carefully and  intentionally … we would all be more likely to get what we want.

Without having to fight for it.

With much less resentment and frustration.

What kind of world would that be?

If we chose our words more intentionally, would we be more likely to get what we want? Click To Tweet

gljudson Better conversations, Values