Powerless Communication?

Earlier this year I shared the thesis of a workshop I designed and facilitated for the Robert Toigo Foundation Groundbreakers Women in Leadership conference…Confident AND Collaborative Communication. I explored the challenge of balancing confident and collaborative styles that allow us to share our unique perspectives with confidence, while maintaining the ability to engage others through collaboration.

The session was very well received and the Robert Toigo Foundation has asked me to facilitate a similar session in 2015 for young professionals of color on their way to top MBA programs. As I continue to explore the topic in preparation for the upcoming session, I discovered the concept of powerless communication in Adam Grant’s book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Check out previous blog posts including Givers, Takers and Matchers and The Secret Sauce of Successful Giving for more information about this thought-provoking book.

Grant’s thesis on the subject of communication is that powerless communication is more effective than powerful communication, with a few exceptions detailed below. Powerless communication techniques include asking questions, talking tentatively, showing vulnerability, and seeking advice. Powerful communication includes offering answers, talking boldly, displaying strength and sharing one’s own point of view. Through powerless communication, he argues, we are able to make stronger connections, build trust, and persuade and negotiate more successfully. The positive outcomes of powerless communication include better collaboration, building stronger networks, and ultimately garnering greater influence.

So while I advocate for balancing confident (powerful) with collaborative (powerless) communication, Grant would argue that powerless communication is almost always more effective. The exceptions he suggests are (1) when you really are incompetent regarding a particular subject, in which case powerless communication will reinforce your lack of knowledge, whereas powerful speak will make you appear more competent, […]

The challenge of balancing confident AND collaborative communication

Last month I had the honor to facilitate a workshop at the Robert Toigo Foundation Groundbreakers Women in Leadership conference. What an inspiring day of female leaders sharing their wisdom and insights.

The topic that I chose to address was how women manage the age-old challenge of, on the one hand, being perceived as aggressive if they appear too confident, and indecisive if they are too collaborative. The session title became Confident AND Collaborative Communication, in part because of the alliteration, but in the end…it seemed to work.

The thesis that I explored was that communication is a form of energy, and that our job as leaders is to find the right balance of confident and collaborative energy so as to both have and share our unique perspective with confidence, while maintaining the ability to engage others through collaboration.  Both forms of energy are managed through “how” we communicate, or the delivery, as well the “what” we deliver, in terms of content and word choice.
Fast Cash Forked River

For more information on energy management and it’s relationship to communication check out the work of Ginny Whitelaw, listed among the expert resources on JoinDrPam.com.

Despite the fact that this is an age-old challenge, the topics appears to have legs for women. No fewer than four other conference speakers raised an aspect of my thesis in their remarks.  Furthermore, I know the topic still has legs for women because based upon the session description alone it was oversubscribed by the attendees at the conference and was standing room only.  So there is still work to be done.

Since energy is a manifestation of how we feel, think, and behave…it is a complicated matter.  My session at this conference focused mostly on the […]