Christmas catch ups are here – don’t be surprised; be prepared!

We all experience it – the end of year catch up with ‘that’ circle of friends or family group involving a person who will almost certainly create drama by what they say or do to you or others.

This Christmas, the potential for conflict is even higher given the range of strong opinions people have about COVID, politics and vaccinations, and the passion they have in defending them.

You probably feel yourself tensing up just thinking about the possible scenarios playing out.

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Modes of communication: Which one to use?

Email, phone call, meeting, text message, instant message…

With so many modes of communication available to us, sometimes our favoured platform is not the most appropriate for the type of communication we are engaging in.

Like the email ping-pong that could have been a five-minute phone call. Or the hour-long meeting that could have been an email.

Putting thought not just into our message but the mode of delivery for the circumstance can have a big impact on the success of our communication.

Here are some things to consider:

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The case for curiosity

What sort of mindset do you have – closed or curious?

In these ever-changing times, we are being continually challenged to consider new ideas, information, and ways of working. 

Adopting a curious mindset is key to unlocking effective communication, personal growth and leadership under this pressure.

It’s one of the most important ‘soft’ or ‘human’ skills to develop.

When we’re curious we’re open to learning and new ideas. We’re focussed on continuous improvement and getting the best outcome rather than ‘being right’. We are receptive to change.

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Lessons in leadership: What we can learn from Nathan Buckley

When Nathan Buckley first started coaching Collingwood 10 years ago, he led his players as he liked to be led.

As a player and Brownlow medallist, he was known as a perfectionist with incredible discipline, drive, professionalism and a ‘type A’ personality.

He initially took this approach as coach – with a hard command and control style of leadership.

It didn’t work.

He rubbed players up the wrong way and struggled to unite the team around him.

Why? Because people are different and not everyone likes or is driven by the same thing.

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Levels of consensus for group decision making success

Gavin was frustrated.

The project team had been going around in circles on a crucial decision for more than 40 minutes without getting anywhere.

“Righto,” said Gavin, cutting off his colleague who was speaking about her concerns for at least the third time.

“It’s time to put this to a vote: Are we going ahead with my proposal, yes or no? All those in favour, put your hands up.”

Gavin looked around expectantly: Five hands were in the air, five were down.

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Replace ‘but’ with ‘and’

What happens in your head when you hear the word BUT?

For many of us, ‘but’ cancels everything that was said before it.

When someone says ‘Yes, but…’ after we’ve made a suggestion, we hear ‘no’ or feel like the other person is ignoring or diminishing what we said.

If your boss intends to be complimentary and says ‘That report was really good, but…’ we ignore the ‘really good’ bit (or think they’re lying) and focus on what comes after the but.

And when our partner says ‘I’m sorry I yelled but I’ve been really stressed lately’, all we hear is the justification. The ‘but’ negates the apology.

So what to do instead…

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“Have you got five minutes?” and other lies

“Have you got five minutes?”

Only, we all know it’s never five minutes and it’s usually asked for right when we’re about to race off to a meeting, are on deadline for an important task, or focussed on an important task.

For many of us (particularly the people pleasers and passive communicators) the yes response can be automatic.

And then we kick ourselves.

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Assume positive intent and transform your response

James was anxious.
Jenny hadn’t said anything about the report he’d submitted two days earlier until the meeting that morning when she’d described it as a ‘good starting point’ in front of the team.
What did that even mean?
James assumed the worst. Obviously, Jenny didn’t like it. Actually, she probably thought it was terrible. And that he’s incompetent. It’s clear Jenny doesn’t like him, otherwise she wouldn’t have tried to make him look bad in public…
And so the spiral begins…

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Book review for Soft is the New Hard

“Great books on effective communication are rare! But Soft is the New Hard by Leah Mether does the genre justice… Detailed and practical – it has the right balance between theory and application. This book is a masterclass and a coach rolled into one.”

Thank you Suman Kher for your wonderful and comprehensive review, and for making my book the first in your #sumanrecommends series for 2021!

You can check out Suman’s full review here

What was your first read of 2021?

softisthenewhard #communication #leadership #softskills #book #bookreview


Leah Mether helps people get out of their own way with the development of soft skills (which are really hard). She is a speaker, trainer, facilitator, mentor and author of the book Soft is the New Hard: How to Communicate Effectively Under Pressure.

How to communicate at Christmas after a year from hell

Communication at Christmas can be fraught at the best of times.

But this year, after the cluster-f…storm that has been 2020, the potential for conflict is higher than usual, with many people stumbling towards the finish line exhausted, traumatised, and polarised in their opinions.

Tolerance levels are low, tempers short, stress levels high, and patience virtually non-existent.

Many of us are not at our best and when we’re not at our best, our communication is not at its best either.

So how can we make it through this holiday season with our relationships with family, friends and colleagues intact? How can we communicate effectively when we’re so on edge?

To help you out, I’ve dusted off my 10 strategies for managing difficult conversations at Christmas and given them a 2020 update. Here they are:

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Soft is the new hard

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