Picture Credit: Amazon
It is important to develop your communication skills to better handle conflict and different types of conversations. There are a lot of people I admire because they can handle a conversation that has the potential of becoming hostile or provide bad news in a non-confrontational manner. Or someone who can gain buy-in on a new approach from his or her peers and management. As testers it is important we develop our communication skills, as we need to provide information to developers, business analysts, and other stakeholders. Sometimes we need to provide information that no one really wants to hear when a release is close to going to production and we uncovered a serious problem. How can we communicate the risks in a manner that our voice is heard?
I found a wonderful book that provides a solid communication model “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. I find their dialog model helpful when preparing for conversations or when you suddenly find yourself in a difficult situation. Imagine you are having a conversation with a developer that is not going well. You need to find a win-win solution – here is a model that can help you.
Below is a brief overview of the model; but you will need to either read the book or attend one of their training programs to fully understand the model and application. Their website provides many wonderful free tools and they have a free newsletter providing feedback to reader’s questions on how to address different types of conversations. You can purchase their book through Amazon.
Start with Heart:
What do you really want to happen?
Example: I want to come to agreement with the developer on the importance of this bug.
Learn to Look:
Look for safety problems in the conversation.
Example: the developer thinks I am attacking his code, I need to find a way to make this conversation safe for him.
Make it Safe:
Look for mutual purpose or mutual respect.
Example: both the developer and tester wants minimize any important bugs from going to production.
Master My Stories:
Stay with the facts and understand the purpose of this conversation.
Example: attacking a developers coding abilities is not going to help the situation. Stay with the facts on what we are witnessing in testing in regards to the bug.
STATE My Path:
Share your facts
Tell your story
Ask for others’ paths
Example: The tester should not be doing all of the talking. Listen to what the developer has to say for a meaningful dialog.
Explore Others’ Path:
Understand their path.
Example: if the developer does not think this is a critical bug, listen to why he feels that way. What are his facts? Repeat them back to him to see if you understand.
Move to Action:
Determine who does what and by when.
Example: if the conclusion is the tester and developer disagrees on the bug’s severity, agree to whom to escalate the problem.
Your Communication Skills Action Plan
What communication skills do you need to address? How well do you handle conflict or interacting with people who have different opinions? If you are not sure, go to Crucial Conversations website. Under Resource Center, Tools + Assessment, complete the free assessment. I found this assessment useful to improving my communication approach. Plus there are different checklists to help you get started. Once this is completed, what is your plan to improve those skills?
If you decide to read this book, let me know how it helped you. Plus if you sign-up for their free newsletter you will have the opportunity to see how others use it to work through problems. I am often asked by testers for books they should read. Crucial Conversations is part of my top 3 books. It is important we can communicate what we witness during testing whether it is to clarify expectations or raise a red flag. I will always encourage testers to work on their skills such as testing techniques and problem-solving. But do not forget to further your communication skills.