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     Volume 4 Issue 49 | June 3, 2005 |

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Useful Tips on Communicating with Seniors

Chowdhury Abd-Allah Quaseed

It is often found that even they who are the greatest advocators of "youth rights" and "equality with juniors" -still feel happier when treated with some special regard by those junior to themselves! Everyone likes importance and as people climb in seniority in terms of age, rank, relationship, social hierarchy (teacher student relationship) or in terms of knowledge or expertise in a field - their expectations of being shown some degree of deference rises as well. Hence everyone should try observing some etiquette in communicating with seniors since doing so helps in making the communications more fruitful. While however, respect should not be overdone to the point of sycophantism, arrogance and self confidence should also not prevent one from being just a little more respectful to one's seniors.

Being courteous, polite and formal:
This applies especially when dealing with people of very high ranks, seniors that one is not too familiar with or those much older than oneself. Holding oneself in just a bit of reserve has generally been found to create a better impression among seniors than trying to exhibit boisterous overconfidence or obsequiousness.

Being careful with choice of words:
Seniors generally prefer being spoken or written to with slightly formal language. This is especially applicable for people in their 40s or above, for they mostly needed to be very formal with their seniors and so, though they may appreciate the "casualness" of changed times, but would like it better to be given the importance they were accustomed to showing. Thus, while it may be alright to use colloquial language with contemporaries, one should sound more sophisticated with seniors.

Not over communicating:
Sometimes in the eagerness to please bosses or elders, people tend to get hyper-excited which leads them to speak too much, often saying inappropriate things, manifesting nervousness. Thus, while it is recommended that people should respond smartly to questions and appear friendly, instead of falling silent or feeling shy, at the same time giving too much more information than what is asked for is discouraged.

Conciseness and time consciousness to be maintained:
One has to express a lot more in fewer words, and so should refine one's internal editing mechanism to get to the point and achieve more impact in lesser time, be it in speaking or in writing. Even letters that require detail explanations should still not exceed a page. Seniors appreciate brevity as being a mark of one who understands how busy he/she is.

Not acting the underdog:
Neither speaking nor writing should contain excessive apologies or needless praise, as is customary with sycophants who present themselves as slaves and underdogs to seniors. Seniors are far more intelligent nowadays and can see through these facades, which only creates a worse impression. Standing slightly bowed forward with clasped hands like butlers are also to be avoided at all times.

Not over promising:
Juniors over-promise when asked about future performances by seniors, though mostly these cannot be lived up to and hence raises the chance of proving oneself incompetent. So, even if seniors may be urging one forward to push the limit, one should at best only promise to give their highest effort, but also politely remind the boss about practical limitations.

Being careful to not disrespect practices of the past:
Many young executives inadvertently offend their seniors as well as contemporary colleagues older to themselves, by calling practices of the past as "redundant" or "outdated" or by showing "over-smartness" with new technology and gadgets. Far more caution is needed in such matters to avoid serious damage to one's own career.

Being genuinely respectful of position or experience:
Highly educated young executives often disregard their seniors who may have lesser language skills, worse accents and inferior qualifications. Instead, they should develop a genuine appreciation of at least the number of years of practical experience the lesser qualified boss may have and also respect their age for safety of their own careers. Also, those young people nowadays who have older people working under themselves, should learn to respect their age, seek practical advice from them sometimes and avoid playing the "boss" with them as much as possible.

Diplomacy in contradictions:
Its always best to let a senior complete rolling out all his/her plans before showing differences of opinions, which also should be presented as a humble request to try an alternative only. Also if one finds oneself to be in disagreement with many points, one should choose only the most important ones to contradict rather than challenge at every step.

Not posing a threat to authority of by-passing:
Over-smart juniors who tend to please the uppermost levels of the hierarchy going beyond their immediate bosses intimidate those mid level seniors. Any communication which may emanate such threat should be avoided for one's own safety and better reputation among colleagues.

Though there can be innumerable other tips for communicating with seniors, the ones above are some of the most commonly applicable ones and it is hoped that practicing them will help readers establish better rapport with all those who are senior to themselves in some way or the other.


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