Faith WoodAllow me to introduce you to Bianca!

Bianca came to our family three weeks ago at seven weeks of age. (With all the pandemic restrictions, the breeder was concerned she wouldn’t be able to deliver the puppies to all their forever homes, so early drop-offs were initiated.)

Besides sharing a few cute puppy photos with you, what does our new puppy have to do with communication?

Her arrival has reminded me of a few things I think we all need to keep in mind when it comes to communication and avoidance of unnecessary conflict.

Whether you have a new puppy, a new employee or perhaps are moving someone new into your home, prime yourself with patience and start STACKING your efforts to nurture desirable outcomes.

S – Slow down: There’s a lot to learn in this new environment, so give them time to explore and ask questions. When we rush, the newcomer feels rushed and this will produce stress and pressure that tends to cause undesirable results.

Newcomers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information coming at them and it will take time to understand the lingo being used before mastering new skills. Attempts to teach too many things at once will feel overwhelming. Focus on creating opportunities for success.

Piling on too much learning will overstimulate and cause needless stress while slowing down progress.

T – Team up: Days are busy and you have a lot of competing priorities. Collaborate with others to help mentor and train. This helps to keep everyone’s attitudes stay positive and encouraging.

And it goes a long way to helping the newcomer feel like the whole team supports them.

A – Avoid shortcuts: When we’ve mastered a task or skill, we tend to take shortcuts. This is a great help once we’ve acquired the skill. However, it creates a lot of confusion for those embarking on initial learning.

Think about all the steps that are needed towards a particular objective and stop leaving them out in your training and mentoring.

C – Clarity: The newcomer needs to learn what words (lingo) mean before they can take the steps toward mastering a process or skill. You can’t teach a process if the language used isn’t in context and understood.

K – Kindness: Be kind and gentle. We’re not robots. And we learn at our own rate. Some of us need constant repetition before we can master new ideas and skills.

Sometimes we catch on fast on a few things and have a harder time with other concepts. That’s okay.

Avoid losing your temper if you want to nurture agreeable temperaments in others. Kindness breeds ease of mind in ourselves and others. Assume good intent.

I – Identify learning gaps: Talking louder and slower doesn’t increase understanding. If your newcomer isn’t getting it, get creative and find another way to demonstrate, explain or support.

Attempt to discern where the gaps in understanding are and provide creative feedback or interventions designed to overcome the gap.

N – No holiday from the rules: Sticking to this principle can be filled with moments of frustration (and sleepless nights). You will be tempted to take vacations from the rules – sad eyes will melt your resolve, and your busy schedule will have you wanting to move off a mentoring project faster than you should.

However, each time you fail to hold the line, it will take longer to see the behaviours and skill mastery you’re promoting. So be kind and model consistency.

If you let the pup up on the couch one day and then get angry the next about them scratching the leather, they will develop fears and often believe they can’t trust you. The same is true for people.

G – Generous with feedback: Be prepared to fail and allow for fail points in your training. Reward effort and progress over the outcome. Celebrate successes and praise those incremental steps.

Positive reinforcement is a huge element in developing the self-confidence needed to progress to more complex tasks.

Remember, it’s easier to nurture good behaviours in the beginning than have to spend a lot of time attempting to fix those learning gaps and undesirable outcomes later.

Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.  For interview requests, click here.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the authors’ alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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