The Art of Coercion – Part 2

Coerce – To cause to do through pressure, force, or necessity.

In my last blog, I introduced the idea that there is a higher chance of someone feeling coerced if he is given a directive or mandate. I focused that blog on how to receive a directive well. If you have not read last month’s blog, The Art of Coercion – Part 1, I would encourage you to read it before reading the rest of this article.

At times, it is your responsibility to communicate a directive to another person, whether this person is a direct report, peer, client, vendor, or your manager. What can you do to help reduce the possibility of the person receiving a directive from feeling coerced? I am going to suggest that it comes down to building a relationship to know how best this person receives directives.

First, trust is at the core of any relationship. If there is a low level of trust between you and the other person, it is often more difficult to receive a directive. Conversely, if there is a high level of trust, a directive is much easier to receive and embrace. Thus, building a mutually trusting relationship helps reduce the possibility of a person feeling coerced.

Next, it is important to understand how a person best receives a directive. For example, some people prefer to be given a directive in the form of a question. “Would you please complete this task by this date in this manner?” Interestingly, this question implies a choice when really there may not be a choice. However, the person receiving the message does what needs to be done.

Other people prefer a more direct approach. “Please complete this task by this date in this manner.” This is a clear message that does not imply a choice. Some people prefer this approach.

Also, as you consider the relationship, recognize some people prefer verbal directives as opposed to written directives. I worked with a person at one point in my career that if I gave a verbal directive, it was rarely completed. However, if I sent a written message, it was always completed.

Another preference to consider is lead time. Some people prefer a longer notice period to complete the directive without surprises. Other people can handle a short notice time and respond quickly.

What does this say about the relationship when giving a directive? Know the person well enough to understand what approach is best.

Finally, remember to use a communication style that is open, positive, and confident (not aggressive) when communicating a directive.