When people share with me what they’ve found most valuable from the communication tools I teach, “Shoveling Piles” is definitely at the top of their list.

Dealing with communication issues right away is a communication skill that may seem obvious, but most of us don’t naturally do it. 

Why Shovel Piles?

According to marriage counselors, one of the top reasons people get divorced is lack of communication (#3). They failed to communicate about small issues before they turned into big ones. It comes in right behind infidelity (#1) and money (#2).

It’s also a big part of why conflict and grievances happen at work. Small issues that don’t get dealt with turn into big issues.  

Don’t Wait for a Crisis to Communicate

It’s easier to let things go rather than to get up the courage to deal with issues when they arise. The longer that damaging or uncomfortable things are left unspoken, the longer they remain damaging and uncomfortable. As time goes on the pile gets even bigger. Eventually, you have a real problem to deal with.

Rather than avoiding issues that come up – or hoping they will go away – address them soon after they happen. Don’t wait until the issue comes up again to address it. Instead, have the conversation you need to have the first time the issue arises.

Shoveling Piles Takes Courage

To learn the communication skill of “Shoveling Piles” you need to:

  • Take time to breathe.
  • Think of what you need to say and how you want to say it, and respond in a kind and respectful way.
  • Share what happened versus what you expected, or what surprised you. Include how it made you feel.
  • Ask for clarification. Did you understand it correctly? 
  • Ask what you can do to help fix the problem. 

Here’s an example:

You are in a meeting and you believe the story your boss is sharing without using names is really about you. She is avoiding your eye contact and you are pretty sure she rolled her eyes when you asked a question.  

Take Action Sooner

As soon as the meeting is over, or as soon as is reasonable, talk to your boss in a private area and share your concern. Here are a few ideas on how to start the conversation: 

  • It seemed like you were talking about me and I felt you were avoiding eye contact. Can we talk about that? Is there a problem? 
  • It seems like you aren’t happy with me. Can we talk about that?
  • Can you help me understand the problem and how I can find a solution?
  • I’m concerned that x is happening. Can we talk about how to resolve it?

That simple conversation could clear up your concerns, or start to uncover an issue that needs to be addressed.  

Shoveling piles means that you are addressing communication issues directly as they arise. When you practice this skill you will find that you will have less conflict, grievances, stalled relationships, bad feelings, and a lot less anxiety and stress.  

Shoveling Communication Piles

Learning to shovel your piles is a transforming communication skill. It will have a positive effect on your home and work culture, where issues are dealt with directly and honestly. 

It’s preventative communication that will save you from having to deal with much bigger problems later.

Join my free Facebook Group, Confident Communication for Women. This group is for women who want to build confidence in their communication skills as well as support and network with other amazing women.

Betty Lochner is a human resources consultant, business coach, and expert in workplace communications. She is the author of two books on communication, and a newly published journal, Intentional Gratitude.