Bulletproof Communication

This is bulletproof coffee – and it has something valuable to teach us about communication. Allow me to explain….

If you and I were chatting about coffee and you asked me my opinion of bulletproof coffee, I’d likely inform you that I feel it is an affront to the dignity and purity of coffee as a culture. However, if we were chatting about ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting, I’d definitely tell you how much I enjoy drinking it every morning, how great it makes me feel and how I can make it all the way to lunch (and beyond) without any major blood sugar issues.

So why the flip-flop? The topic certainly didn’t change, nor did the people involved in the exchange. No, the only thing that changed is the conversation that this topic was framed in.

Understanding what conversation you are in is the single most important component of effective communication.

If you frequently find yourself in frustrating or unproductive interchanges in your work or personal life, try stepping back from the issue to ask yourself a few simple questions:

1 – Is everyone involved in this interchange actually having the same conversation?

2 – Is the miscommunication occurring because I am trying to change the conversation and the other parties are either unable or unwilling to adjust their perspective?

3 – Is the other party trying to change the conversation and I am either unable or unwilling to adjust my perspective?

4 – Am I more interested in a conversation that is clear and edifying to both me and the other parties, or am I more interested in asserting my perspective because my ego is driving my choices?

Most often, good communication is actually about understanding how to compromise. In order to have a conversation be truly productive, you must be content to leave that conversation with only a few of the most critical elements resolved, even if that leaves a lot of other issues still unresolved on the table.

Identifying what results you can get out of any given exchange, and being content to focus on that and set aside the remaining issues, requires humility and integrity. You’ll never be able to resolve every issue you identify. If you try, you will more likely end up never resolving anything at all. In every conversation you must pick your battles, resolve what can be resolved, given the context of the interchange and the parties involved, and leave the rest of the issues on the table for another time. You must also commit to an ongoing exchange that will address those other issues at a later date, and discipline yourself to both walk away when you need to, and return to the conversation without allowing the issues to fester in your mind.

The more rare it is that you exercise confrontation, the more impact you will have when you inevitably do confront an issue. Power in communication does not come from being rigid and unyielding. Power comes from being flexible almost all of the time, until a moment arrives when you must be firm. That moment will be immeasurably more impactful when you’re a flexible communicator than it would be if you’re a bully.

Good communication does require two parties; it takes two to tango – but great communicators develop the skills necessary to exceed their 50% of that equation in order to compensate for the lack of skills in others. And of course….great communication also requires great coffee, in whatever form suits you (and your counterparts) best.

  3 comments for “Bulletproof Communication

  1. May 20, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    I continuously have hard conversations and am planning to have a extremely politically-driven discussion with a friend very soon.

    I want to come in and address three main concerns. However, I half-expected my friend not address those concerns and try to change the topic of conversation.

    I am pondering over what you are saying however. I am keeping that in mind.

    • benhulet
      May 20, 2016 at 3:09 pm

      Joe – I totally believe in hard conversations; they are critical too. You just have to decide what your goal is in the conversation. Sometimes the goal of a conversation is to change the conversation OR to not allow the conversation to be changed. In both those cases, pushing through the hard stuff is the only way to move forward.

  2. Don
    June 6, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    Ben, I really agree with your comments. Recently I had a hard conversation that should have been had long ago. It was successful due to the time I put into preparing for it. In my experience, often the conversation goes sideways because people are speaking from emotion rather than information. A bit like preparing a Bulletproof Coffee. It takes time and care for good results.

Leave a Reply