4 Principles to Communicate Constructively

If you have ever been accused of being unconstructive, you probably wondered what that word meant. How to understand that particular discussion was not constructive, but this is constructive?


It would seem like a no brainer that problems must be solved when they need to be solved. It is not for nothing when someone says to us: “Well, a month ago I saw that everything would most likely fail here, and really..”. I want to hammer a nail into the head of this observant person.

In real life, things are a little more complicated. Therefore, here we should talk about the two most common violations of this principle.

Mistake # 1. Attacking the past.

The only problem with the past is that it cannot be changed. Therefore, people often perceive questions of history as a personal attack on themselves. To the question “Why didn’t you do it yesterday,” a person begins to answer honestly. There are always many reasons for smart people.

Mistake number 2. We solved one problem, forgot about the second.

One manager shared his problem with a remote employee:

– You see, he is responsible for setting up the working environment. So we hired a new employee. He calls our remote manager, asking him to set something up. Then he explains for four hours why this cannot be done. After that, a new employee comes up to me with frustrated feelings. I set everything up for him in five minutes.

– What next?

– And then, the situation repeats with a specific frequency.

What is happening in reality? The manager perfectly solves the problem that has arisen – to set up the environment for a new employee. However, after that, he forgets to look into the future. He couldn’t think about making sure that the situation does not recur. Often, solving one problem creates the next one that we overlook. And this is also a collective violation of the principle of timeliness.

  1. Targeting

Two employees in the smoking-room complain to each other about the bosses. “Damn, again, moving to a new office. How? Third time in a year! We have already hesitated …”- this is not quite constructive. If there is a problem with moving, they won’t prefer solving it among themselves in a smoking room.

Now, after this conversation, someone might go to the authorities to find out what and how to move. In that case, there will be a switch to the constructive. The targeting principle says that the problem needs to be solved with someone who can help solve it.

  1. Facts and data

Sometimes people absolutely and sincerely are unable to see the problem that you came to discuss.

Let’s say you’re a staunch supporter of agile development. Accordingly, you have morning planning meetings in your team (they are also scrum meetings or standup meetings). And now your new colleague is always late for them. Why? He honestly believes that this is complete nonsense. Because before that, he worked for ten years in other companies and other projects. And they quite successfully did their projects without any ritual planning meetings.

“It worsens team spirit” is a great argument, but what does it mean? This is a powerful question for understanding whether a dispute is factual or not. The facts are useful because you can not argue with them. That is why they are convincing. That’s the reason they allow a person to see and understand what the problem is. One of the answers for the example above: “We cannot take your opinion into account, then we have to redo it more than once.”

  1. The intention to solve a problem, and not a person

As part of a constructive discussion, we are not looking for someone to blame. Our task is to resolve the situation. During the debate, a person may try to prove that he is not to blame. The dissociation technique works very well: “Wait a minute, I’m not bumping into you, but the situation itself …”

As you can see, the principles are simple in theory. But they are regularly violated in practice. As a small exercise, remember some awkward conversation from your recent past when you cursed with a person. Think about what principles of the construct were violated by your interlocutors or you personally.

You can also read:

How To Manage A Difficult Project

Podcast Creation: 3 Powerful Easy Steps to Build a Winning Podcast

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