Ever been approached by someone like your boss or another co-worker and the message they are trying to relay comes off in a negative tone and immediately you put up a wall and become defensive? I have many times. I have been approached by others and also have witnessed others being approached and you can see the wall being built around them; their body language and response gives it off.

As a leader I have focused a lot about how I approach a fellow co-worker or anyone in general. Whether I am talking to someone because I want to give them praise or if I need to have a disciplinary talk with them I do not ever want them to shut off and not understand the message I am communicating to them. Approach and delivery is everything and I will admit that I am still working on this on my end when I am approached. I have had a people approach me and I can start to feel the wall being built, I can feel my patients drifting away and then I remind myself to breathe and listen. What is it that they are trying to communicate to me?

When you approach someone because you want to communicate with them there are a few steps that should be followed. These steps will help gather your thoughts and message, help how to approach the person and communicate, and finally allow you to observe and reflect.

John Wooden said, “Preparation is the key to success.” For example, before approaching someone to give them feedback about their work make sure you know your employees or the person you approaching. Do they get defensive? Do they enjoy feedback? How long have they been working for you or doing that particular job? All these questions will change how you approach and what you say to them. Once you have figured out what you want to say, WHY you want to communicate with them and how to best approach them based off their personality then it is important that your timing for the approach is correct.


When approaching someone make sure they are not in the middle of a big project where they are deeply focused on the task at hand. Ask for a moment of their time. Be relaxed, sit with them or anything to make them feel comfortable about your talk. Begin with talking about a common goal you want to reach, value that person brings to table, then go into the main point you want to bring up to them, whether that is a task that didn’t go well, something they need to work on, etc. After communicating with them about the main reason for approaching them, explain the WHY and the importance behind it. Then ask if they have any questions and understand what was communicated with them. Final part is to always thank them for their time and let them know how much they mean to the organization and to yourself. 

People want to feel that their work and input is truly valued. There will be times where this style of approach is not needed, For example, if you need to talk to someone because they have violated a company policy and need to be terminated then that is another way to approach. In the end, after you sat down and talked it is always important to reflect to allow yourself to grow and learn about future situations. Ask yourself, did my message get across? What was the body language of the person I was talking too? What was their verbal communication back to me? Since talking to them have they made the corrected changes or task?

Approach is everything. How you deliver a message can and will affect your future relationship with a person. Don’t just approach and communicate with out preparing what you want to say and importantly WHY you want to communicate with them. Good and bad news can be communicated in a way that can be highly effective if not right. Next time you have to communicate with someone about a difficult situation follow the steps given above and leave feedback about how it went. 

-Sean C.



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