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Dealing with the Emotional Barriers of Communication in Project Management

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 2/16/2011

You’re the project leader and it’s your responsibility to ensure communication flows smoothly. But it doesn’t always work the way you expect, especially when dealing with the emotional barriers of communication. Jean Scheid offers up some tips and suggestions.

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    Oh! The Crying, the Angry and the Timid

    Dealing with emotional barriers of communication When trying to smash the emotional barriers of communication in project management, you need to think of the ‘human’ element because your teams aren’t robots—if they were, you’d probably have no communication problems at all! So what does a project manager do about those who cry, are angry or act so timid they are afraid to offer input?

    Along with these personalities, you’ll also have the go-getters, the bullies, the I’m-in-charge types, and the pessimistic guy or gal that runs around like Chicken Little!

    You can overcome these emotional barriers when communicating—if you have a plan in place and if you know your team well.

    Image Credit: MorgueFile/renjinth krishnan

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    Breaking the Communication Barriers

    Your Teams Have Different Personalities For ultimate success, try some of these tips with your teams:

    • Know Your Team – If you know angry Sally hates go-getter Jill, then you need a communication wall inserted to sway fights, arguments and intimidation. When preparing your communication plan, make sure you take into account the personalities of each team member along with designated work spaces—sometimes increasing workspace in between apple-type and orange-type workers can be a great way to deal with the emotional barriers of communication.

    • Everybody Hug! – Well not really, but what’s wrong with an intense pow-wow where people can feel free to let thoughts flow and really get to know one another? Don’t think of this as a “way-cool" hippie party; make it professional, yet relaxed. Make sure everyone gets a turn to speak or share thoughts with no fear of reprisals.

    • All for One! – Remember that in project management, your team is made of up individuals that work and live differently. Encourage group rewards and incentives to break this communication barrier and make your team feel like they’re a member of the Three Musketeers! Role playing exercises or team building exercises are great ideas.

    Image Credit: MorgueFile/anankkml

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    The Good, the Bad & the Impossible

    Great Team Communication There are some people so stoic in their beliefs in the chain of command and others that fall in various levels of generational communication—and you can bet the farm you’ve got all types of these personalities on your team. For the impossibly hard to deal with, try some of these tips:

    • You’re Not the Boss of Me – Well, you know what—you are! Act like a leader and lead. As dog trainer Cesar Milan would say, you’re the pack leader, so be calm, yet assertive, and nurture your pack.

    • Stop Issues Quickly – If you know a team member feels stymied on how to communicate or who is in charge or what’s going on, you need to address these people before they are so lost and confused you may never be able to reach them.

    • Control What You Can Control – You may have a bossy type who insists they know it all and yet, they may be one of your largest producers. Find ways to talk discreetly with these types. Be honest and encouraging about what you want to see change to break this barrier of communication.

    Image Credit: MorgueFile/jscreationzs

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    Reap the Rewards

    Before you think it’s impossible to deal with the emotional barriers of communication, analyze your team, use our free communication plan template found in our Media Gallery and learn the essential elements of a good communication plan.

    Next, be a leader, guide your team, embrace free exchange and reap the rewards!

    Jean Scheid has written many comunication plans; article content is author's own experience.

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