[Image by DannyMoore1973 of Pixabay]

The fact is that we need to know how to communicate in all directions so that we include diverse audiences.  That means communicating laterally, downwards, and upwards. We never know when each of these opportunities will be present so it’s best to have a strategy in place.  For the purpose of this post, our focus will be upwards or upstream communication.

When we refer to upstream communication, we’re discussing communication with someone who may be your boss, your supervisor, or someone who holds a higher position than you in the corporate world. I realize that may be a scary proposition for some of you however, if you keep the following ten pointers in mind, you’ll have a greater likelihood of success.

  1. Ensure you and your boss are communicating about the same topic.  Sounds like a basic idea, however, it’s easy to slip up on this and then you’re starting out poorly.
  2. Avoid becoming emotional when speaking.  That could require creating some space between the issue and your communication.  Take that time to reflect if needed, so that your communication is clear and not fraught with emotions.
  3. Know your points and practice stating them until you can do so confidently.  Try recording yourself on your phone, tablet, or laptop, so that you can assess your clarity on playback.
  4. If you’re presenting a problem, be sure you do more than state the problem.  It helps to offer one or two possible solutions.  That way you’re not just seen as a complainer but someone who is trying to help.
  5. Use positive language vs. a negative perspective as this will color what you have to say.
  6. Know how much time is allocated for your conversation so that you stay within the time limits.  When we extend our time, it tends to dilute our message and show disrespect for the other person and their obligations.
  7. Ask your boss or supervisor for his or her perspective on the situation by posing open-ended questions.  These may include “What do you think about what we’ve discussed?” or “How do you feel we should proceed?”
  8. Offer feedback on the situation or conversation, as warranted. This shows you’ve been attending and are alert.
  9. Provide follow-up so that the boss knows you take this seriously and want to resolve it. You could recap your discussion in writing, as a refresher.
  10. Thank the boss or supervisor for providing input that you plan to use.  You may opt to send a thank you card/note as a memorable gesture.

Each of these ten pointers will assist you when communicating upstream since we never know when we’ll be traveling in that direction. If you’d like to discuss this with me further, please know your calls (518) 664-6004 or emails [email protected] are always welcome.