Saturday, August 9, 2014

Conversation Model

Conversation Model

Prepared by Bett Correa



In the book So What’s your Point? by James C. Wetherbe and Bond Wetherbe, they give models for verbal communication. I highly recommend you read it. Here are the highlights. The models at a high level are as follows:

1. Explanation Model- Used when you are explaining something to someone. You need to first give the problem, and then give the solution. It’s important not to swap these two.

2. Agreement Model – Used after you have explained, and now the person you are communicating with agrees with you. You need to reinforce the agreement by saying “you’re right” or something similar, and expand on why they are right to agree with you.

3. Closure Model – Used after you’ve communicated the points you wanted to make, and obtained agreement. Closure Model consists of reviewing the points, followed by a proposed course of action.

4. Reservation/Doubt Model- Used when the person you are communicating with doesn’t believe either the problem you’ve stated is a real problem or that the solution you gave will work. At this point you don’t want to get emotional. First you need to reassure the person their reservation or doubt is something you also care about. Then you need to substantiate the problem by reiterating, but making sure to elaborate on the reasons why it’s a real problem.

5. Question/Confusion/Conflict Model – Used when the person you are communicating with has questions, confusion or conflict. First rephrase the person’s question with, “You are concerned with, <issue>?” Make sure you say it in a way that is respectful. Get to the heart of the issue. If they say, “No I am concerned with something else,” then rephrase that concern. Make sure you really understand their concern clearly. Once they agree that you have rephrased their question correctly, and then you can answer, clarify or minimize that concern exactly. When you minimize their concern, you do it by reviewing the alternatives to the use of your solution. Show that your solution outweighs the cost of not doing your solution.

6. Query Model - Used if the person you are communicating with just says “No” to your request without any information; then you need to use the query model. An indirect probe is saying, “Oh?” If they still just say “No” without giving any more information, then you should start guessing what their concern might be.

Stay respectful at every stage of these interactions. Let’s look at some role playing with two of our architects. The situation is that the system being developed needs new hardware. The architect wants their director to approve the request.

Now let’s look at a bad example of the conversation for this situation.

John: “Hi Ralph. I came to talk about the hardware that you said you’d meet me about.”

Ralph: “Yes come in and sit.”

John: “Ralph, [Solution] we need to buy a more powerful server, as I’ve laid out in the email I sent you.

Ralph: [Doubt of the problem] “We just bought that hardware two years ago. I don’t want to buy hardware that we don’t need.”

John:[offended] “You think I didn’t check if we really need the hardware?”

Ralph: “Well, I don’t understand why we need more.”

John: “If we don’t get it, the new system won’t work.”

Ralph: [Conflict] “We don’t have any budget for new hardware.”

John: [Offended] “You only care about the budget?”

Ralph: “Yes, that’s right; I don’t think our upper management will approve that extra expense.”

John: “Our upper management never understands what we are trying to do.”

Ralph: “Right.”

John: “This project is going to fail. I tried to save it.”

Ralph: “Hmm. I do not understand why you need new hardware, John.”

John: [Explain the problem] “The hardware isn’t fast enough to support the new demand of our customer service reps.”

Ralph: “Oh. I didn’t realize that. Did you really try to get the hardware to work?”

John: [Offended] “Of course.”

Ralph: “Well I am not sure we have the budget.”

John: “Oh well. You’ll see when we launch, and it doesn’t work.”

Ralph: “Why don’t you come back when you have some proof.”

John: “Whatever!”

Now let’s look at the same situation with someone using the correct models:

Susan: “Hi Ralph. [Verify this is a good time and they are not being distracted by something else] Is this still a good time to discuss the hardware for the new system?”

Ralph: “Yes, come in and sit.”

Susan: “Ralph, [Explain the problem] the new system will be used by all 500 of our customer service representatives constantly throughout the day. To meet our aggressive goals of response time to our customers, we need to have a system that exceeds our current hardware limitations. The director of the customer service representatives has clearly given us response-time requirements. We have tested the current hardware with the new software, and it is not meeting those response times.

[Give the solution] To handle that type of traffic, we need to buy a more powerful server, as I’ve laid out in the email I sent you.”

Ralph: [Doubt of the problem] “We just bought that hardware two years ago. I don’t want to buy hardware that we don’t need.”

Susan:[Reassure] “We certainly don’t want to buy hardware we don’t need.”

Ralph: “Exactly.”

Susan: [Substantiate] “Here is what we are up against. We have robust software that will be collecting a lot more data, and responding a lot quicker to customer service representatives than our current software. We just can’t handle that type of transaction within the requested response time using our current hardware. Our best techs have tested it with a variety of configurations. It’s taking well over the acceptable limits to meet our requirements.”

Ralph: [Conflict] “We don’t have any budget for hardware.”

Susan: [Rephrase with a validation of the communication] “Let me make sure I understand, you are concerned with the budget for hardware?”

Ralph: “Yes, that’s right; I don’t think our upper management will approve that extra expense.”

Susan: [Rephrase again with a validation of the communication] “Ok, so you are worried that we won’t get approval from upper management?”

Ralph: “Right.”

Susan: [Minimize] “So the alternative is that we deliver a system that doesn’t allow our company to meet its response-time goals. That will stop us from winning the best customer service award we are applying for. If you are worried about getting approval, I can put the business case together for upper management so that they will understand the issue and what is at stake.”

Ralph: “Hmm. My end of year is based on us getting that award for customer service.”

Susan: [Reinforce] “Good point!

[Expand] If we don’t get the faster server, we won’t be able to win that award, and that award will really get us a lot of press coverage and put us ahead of our competition.

Ralph: [Agreement] “That’s so true.”

Susan: [Points of agreement] “So to get this hardware to ensure we meet our response- time goals, [Propose course of action] you can click ‘accept’ on the hardware ordering site, and I’ll send over the documentation to review the business case.”

Ralph: “Ok, I’ll approve it, and if they ask, then we can send them your documentation. Thanks for being so thorough in this, Susan.”

Susan: “Glad to do it Ralph. Thanks for the time, and have a great afternoon.”



Every important conversation you have, think about the needs of the other person. How can you help them get what they need?

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