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Upending the old rules of communication

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Communication is a pillar of good management. It smoothes business relationships and makes our workplace run smoothly.

But how and what we communicate is changing. New ways of reaching people, and new rules of what is okay to say, are upending long-held beliefs. Several LinkedIn Influencers weighed in on the evolving rules of communication, from how to say no gracefully to how Twitter has added new wrinkles to the back-and-forth.

Here’s what some of them had to say.

Greg McKeown, management consultant and author

“Saying no to a senior leader or customer seems almost unthinkable, even laughable, for many people,” wrote McKeown in his post How to Say No Gracefully.

But, he wrote, if saying yes will “compromise your ability to make the highest contribution, it is also your obligation” to say no. So why don’t we do it more often? Because for many of us, saying no can be “incredibly awkward,” wrote McKeown, “so much so that we say yes by default and then regret it afterwards.”

So, how does one say no graciously? It’s simple, wrote McKeown.

First, affirm the relationship by saying something like “It really is good to hear from you,” he wrote. Next, “thank the person sincerely for the opportunity.” And then, “decline firmly and politely.” That can be as simple as saying “For several reasons I need to pass on this at the moment,” he wrote.

“Saying no is like any other skill: it can be improved with practice,” wrote McKeown. “Start practicing with a relatively trivial request, like a lunch invitation you have received in email. Over time build up until saying no becomes easy.”

Adam Grant, management professor at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

What’s your automatic response when someone says “thank you”? Yes, it’s “you’re welcome”. “It’s a basic rule of politeness… but according to one leading psychologist, this isn’t the best choice of words, wrote Grant in his post Why You Shouldn’t Say “You’re Welcome”.

Instead, those two words mark a missed opportunity to seize a moment of power “we are all afforded as soon as someone has said ‘thank you’.  What should you say instead?  “I know you’d do the same for me,” wrote Grant, referencing researcher Robert Cialdini’s suggested response.

“There are at least three potential advantages of this response. First, it conveys that we have the type of relationship where we can ask each other for favours and help each other without keeping score,” wrote Grant. “Second, it communicates confidence that you’re the kind of person who’s willing to help others. Third, it activates the norm of reciprocity, making sure that you feel obligated to pay the favour back in the future.”

Still, this response might be uncomfortable since it connotes “a subtle appeal to reciprocity,” wrote Grant, who added that he didn’t want to leave people “feeling like they owed me”.

So is there an even better alternative?

Maybe so, wrote Grant, if one presumes that every favour you do is an opportunity to encourage others to act more generously. Instead of “you’re welcome” or “I know you’d do the same for me” Grant suggests something more novel: “I know you’ll do the same for someone else.”

“It affirms your character as a person who’s happy to be helpful,” Grant wrote. “It doesn’t deliver the implicit message that you’re indebted to me… It’s just a sentence, but the underlying values have the potential to fundamentally change the way people interact.”

Tomasz Tunguz, Partner at Redpoint Ventures

Imagine a form of communication that allows us to correspond in an entirely fresh way.

That’s exactly what Twitter does, wrote Tunguz in his post The First Form of Communication That Changes Depending on Who is Using It.

“Like the telephone, the fax [and] email, Twitter enables all types of communications: friendly banter, customer support requests, news syndication and public service announcements to name a few,” he wrote. “But Twitter imposes three new wrinkles that set it apart as a new form of communication.”

For starters, Tunguz wrote, we will never really know who receives our tweets. “One could sift through a list of Twitter followers but never understand who they are, if they pay attention to tweets, why they follow an account, or what agenda they have,” he wrote.

But more than that, “a user's experience with Twitter changes based upon their following.” he wrote. “Sending a tweet falls somewhere along the continuum of yelling into the woods when no one else is around, practicing Shakespeare in a crowded public park or stumping on stage in front of 100,000 people in the audience with a microphone in hand. A Twitter user's follower count molds his Twitter experience.”

Above all, Twitter is the first form of communication that is moldable. It “enables users to bend and shape their experiences as they wish,” Tunguz wrote.