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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Congruence: Do the words match the tone and delivery of the message?

If I’m giving someone bad news, am I standing or sitting in a way that reflects my concern?  Using words that express empathy?  Is my tone soft and understanding?  Or am I smiling and laughing with a team mate as I walk into the room and deliver the news?  Congruency is harder than most people think.  With all the technology we have in our lives it’s easy to allow ourselves to believe we can multitask and still maintain effective communication.  You cannot.  To be congruent you must be focused on what you are saying, how you are saying it and what your gestures or expressions may be interpreted as meaning.  Any distraction can take away the impact for the listener.  

Checking your phone, rummaging through a drawer, or trying to fix a problem with your hand piece while talking, is distracted talking.  While the results of distracted talking are not as physically detrimental as distracted driving, it certainly can kill the results you are trying to achieve.  Being trained to verbalize by rote, or having “canned” speeches and responses can take away congruency as well. While I love scripting in the office to make sure everyone is singing the same tune, it must always include leeway for injecting your unique personality allowing the words and meanings to flow naturally in spite of the script.

When I think about incongruence I always think of the movie, Trains, Planes and Automobiles.  The scene where Steve Martin is standing in front of the airline ticket counter wearing a tire around his chest, in obvious dishabille and distress and the agent looks up with a big smile and asks, “How are you today?” in a cheery voice.  He loses it, as most of us would in a similar situation.  That is classic incongruence.

Lenora Milligan is a coach consultant with Salt Dental Practice Management. 
Original Article published by
Tri-County Dental Society
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