by Paul Casey

Roundabout Communication

Here in Eastern WA state, the cities have gone roundabout-wild. It seems there is a new one somewhere in town every month, and their hopes are that it improves the flow of traffic. Some people still make terrible blunders that almost cause accidents because of not paying attention, not understanding the rules of the road, or by just being selfish.

Using the metaphor of the roundabout, there are some great parallels for communication skills–besides just doing the opposite of those three maladies above. First, just like entering a roundabout cautiously, conversations should be entered softly, too. “Bulls in china shops” come on too strong, and everything goes downhill from there as receivers pull back and dig in defensively. Think “soft approach” for setting a better tone.

Second, it’s important in the roundabout to understand what the concept of yielding is. They got rid of the stop signs with hopes that drivers would make sure those already in the circle would be given the right of way before hitting their accelerator. It’s also crucial in conversations to listen first to the other person, making them feel understood, before trying to get your point across. Empathy helps grease the skids, too.

And third, signaling your exit of the roundabout is a very gracious gesture that communicates to those waiting what your car’s intention is going to be. And, in your dialogue with others, you can also give signals (often called body language and verbal cues) that shows you are tracking with them (like nodding and confirming), your interest (eye contact and urging them to continue), your confusion (puzzled look and request for clarification), and when you get “flooded” and need to call a time-out.

Three ways to improve your skills to keep the flow of communication positive and clear.

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