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#WFH: What is a Communication Sandwich?

The biggest mistake people make in communication is telling not asking. Information and feedback are both a part of communication. The information sandwich technique is a three-step process that makes information easier to swallow or take in. The first step is to ask permission, step two is to provide the information and step three is to obtain feedback or clarify. Why do we need to ask permission and how exactly might we do that? Asking permission breaks down barriers and gives the other person a juxtaposition in motivation. Instead of demanding attention, we put the other person in the position of inviting us in. This gives them a sense of control and breaks down defenses and barriers. It makes the other person feel like they have more control of the situation. It makes them more comfortable. Simple introductions like “Can I ask you a question?” or “Is it okay if I express a concern about this?” sets the tone for the conversation.

The second step is one that we are all used to, providing the information. The challenge here for many of us is to stay open and to provide this information in a non-demanding, non-threatening way. It is easy to fall into patterns of communication we may have learned years ago and come up naturally. These are communication traps. If we can learn to avoid them, we have a better chance of getting a conversation going.

The Sergeant Friday Trap

“The facts, Ma’am, just the facts,” as Sergeant Friday use to say back in the 1960s. We are taught from the time we are little that if we have the facts that is all that is important. You can’t argue with the facts. Unfortunately, we all have different perspectives and see the facts differently. There is no objective reality. All reality is subjectively filtered through each of our own unique perspectives.

The Teacher Trap

“I’m going to tell you, tell you again, and then tell you I told you!” I will talk at you and you will take it in and understand exactly what I want you to. I know more than you, I understand more than you. Therefore, you must listen to my every word and believe everything I say. If not, I will continue to lecture you until you get it.

The Blame Game

This is where we make it, whatever it is, the other person’s fault. Blame is a sure way to shut communication down immediately.

The Right or Wrong

This is where we take a side and the other person is wrong. There is no room for discussion. Once we take a position the other person may naturally take the opposite position just out of defense. Now we have a right and a wrong and no conversation. Or we ask a question where there is only one possible answer. Closed questions will shut conversation down the same way.

The third part of a communication sandwich is feedback or clarification. Don’t overdo this step. Some people have a habit of saying “Do you get that?” “Do you understand?” “Does this make sense to you?” This can be an annoyingly dismissive part of the conversation. It is however, important to ask for feedback and check for understanding. Feedback is about acknowledgement and conveying understanding. If you don’t understand, ask. If you do understand then let the other party know.

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