The other day I was told I was being arrogant and selfish. I won’t get into the details but suffice it to say, the observation was an accurate description of my behaviour.

My response to the commentary surprised me. When the message was delivered I did not get defensive. I did not go on the attack. I didn’t even argue with the person.

In fact my reaction was the complete opposite. I sat back, reflected and became very aware and embarrassed of how I was behaving. WHAT was said about me was true.

I sincerely apologized to my counterpart and then something amazing occurred. Our conversation took on a whole new tone, one that was collaborative and friendly (the opposite direction of where I was heading with it).

This course change in conversation was directly attributed to HOW my counterpart spoke to me. With genuine and sincere intent beneath his words, he calmly delivered a tough message. His disposition allowed me to reflect, recognize my misstep and save face, allowing for the conversation to continue in a productive manner.

not what but howIt is not WHAT people say, it is HOW they say it that determines the success of a conversation.

Often, 80% of WHAT people say to us is accurate and factual and we should learn from their observations. (This is a stat that I completely made up with no imperial evidence to support it). But often we do not hear the wisdom because we can’t get past HOW the person delivered the message. (Approximately 75% of messages are not heard, same study as above).

If you want to improve your conversations, start by focusing on the intent beneath your message.  Communication is more about HOW things are said vs WHAT is being said.

What tone are you setting?