COPE With Communication Breakdown

How many times have you heard someone say "We need better communication 'round here..."?

I'm betting you've lost count!

Effective communication is the lifeblood of any good team and it's a critical skill for anyone to master, yet for so many of us it can be the trickiest skill.

Why? Well there are several reasons I can think of... but they are only reasons (or excuses) for not communicating well.

The real question we need to ask ourselves is "How do I cope when communication breaks down?"... and this is where the COPE Model can be a very useful tool.

The COPE Model is a simple 4-step system that helps you to stay calm under pressure.

It is also useful for you in structuring your message to capture the emotional needs of your audience... even if that "audience" is a disgruntled colleague hell-bent on tearing you down!

Use the COPE Model just by following the guidelines below;

C = Be consistent, clear and concise.

Be consistent in your approach. Don't scream and yell one day then smile and pretend like everything is roses the next. Know the purpose of your communication and always work towards that.

Be clear. Check in to see if you are being understood. Look for the signs of confusion... scrunched up faces... eyes darting everywhere. Invite questions.

Be concise. Don't waffle on. Don't get lost in the link and move from story to story.

Deliver the message first.

Then give a few points of background information... the why, the what, the how and the what if.

Then deliver the message again. After that, take questions.

O = Be open, honest, organised and on-message

Be open and honest in your communication. Some people are naturally curious. Some people suffer from "conspiracy syndrome". Put simply just TELL THE TRUTH... it will come out anyway.

Be organised. Know what you want to say. Rehearse it if you need to... or plan ahead and think about what you might say in certain situations.

Stay on-message. It's being clear and concise... again!

P = Be polite, personal and personable

Be polite. Respect whoever it is that you're communicating with. They're just trying to understand the information you're giving them. If they don't get the message the first time give them time to process it. And if they still don't get it then deliver your message in some other way.

Be personal. In some way make it relevant to them. We all stop listening if we don't think something applies to us... or is that just me?

Be personable. Be friendly and easy to talk to. Have a genuine interest in talking with others. This might take some effort but the rewards are enormous.

E = Be educated and empathetic

Be educated on what you're talking about. KNOW YOUR STUFF! And if you don't know then say so... People know when you're making it up... and they remember.

Be empathetic. See the other person's perspective on the issue. Put yourself in their position and seek to understand their concerns... then watch your communication effectiveness skyrocket!

Communication can be a challenge for everyone but if you learn to COPE when communication breaks down you will become a very effective communicator...

Here's to higher success...


Dean Evans is a Leadership Performance Strategist based in Adelaide, Australia. With more than 10 years of leadership roles in the field of Allied Health he has a wealth of experience in understanding what it takes to operate at peak levels in pressure environments and how to develop individuals to reach their potential. As the Director of Altitude Performance Solutions his passion is equipping new leaders with the people skills necessary to drive the performance and productivity of their teams in today's business world. Whether speaking to groups of people or conducting team trainings Dean will bring great insights and useful tools to help you harness the power of your people. He is also a qualified Performance Coach and an Accredited Consultant in Extended DISC Performance Profiling.

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