HR: The RPNQC communication method

Jan 17th 2017 in communication explication

Have you ever had your work or behavior criticized by someone else? Do you always know the best way to communicate when you’ve got something unpleasant to say? Do you put yourself in the other person’s shoes when you communicate?

For those of you who haven’t experienced this, let’s see what happens…

If I say to you, “You’re always late for our meetings”, how will you feel? Attacked, annoyed, stressed, or even humiliated?

Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal. There’s a judgemental element in there, which is not constructive. The person on the receiving end is not likely to be receptive to my words, and will more likely clam up, or try to justify or defend themselves.

Perhaps you just want them to understand your point of view in order to improve themselves and do things correctly next time. But these types of cases can interfere with communication and lead to misundertandsings, which in turn can breed tensions and further conflict.

Remark: You don’t understand. But why? I just want my colleague/friend/boyfriend/brother to be there on time.

So how should you construct your discourse?

You want the person in front of you to be receptive to what you have to say and take into account how you feel in the future.

This is the moment when I unveil my favorite leopard bag, my most cherished communication tool, my little secret!

Yes, like Mary Poppins! 

It’s a basic tool that is extremely useful! It’s as useful as toilet paper is to humans. We don’t realize how lucky we are to have it, until we run out of it. It’s so annoying when that happens! It can even be highly problematic in certain situations… Basically, this tool will become indispensable for you. ☺

It’s Vincent Lenhardt’s RPNQC method. This consultant, coach and trainer has found a way to make the most sensitive topics simple to communicate, all while maintaining a good rapport and relationship with the other person by setting out a framework and the expectations you have of them. Your attitude remains neutral and open minded. While this may be a basic coaching method, it can easily be adapted to other contexts.

My friends and family are going to complain that I’m boring them with this method, but it just works so well!

Trying is believing ☺!

But what does RPNQC mean and how can I use it?

Here are some explanations based on our initial example, which will demonstrate to you how to construct your discourse by transmitting that same message in a neutral, constructive way.

  • R - the Real situation

This requires you to provide the following information: who, what, where, when, how and how much, so that the person you are speaking to understands exactly what you are talking about.

  • What is the precise situation?

Example: Last Tuesday, we had a meeting at 9 to discuss Project X and you arrived at 9:20.

Advice: A single sentence is enough to define the context. There’s no point drawing it out. Try to stick to one particular situation and provide at least the following details: when (day/time), who (people involved), what (what exactly you want to talk about). Even if it’s a recurrent situation, you should only talk about the most recent example, or the one that bothered you the most.

  • P - the Problem

Indicate the effect that the situation (R) has had on you and the problems it has given rise to. It’s important to use 3 strong adjectives that describe your feelings.

  • What problems did it generate?

  • Why was it problematic for you?

  • What were your feelings about it?

Example: I had another appointment at 10 with a client, so we weren’t able to make as much progress on our project as we had planned to. Now we’re behind, and as a result, I feel stressed, disappointed and discouraged.

Advice: always use “I” and pick strong adjectives. Sometimes you can reduce “P” to a single sentence that provides context.

  • N - the Need

The problem often conceals a need to communicate that you need to express clearly. You need to clearly identify this need in order to bring about a resolution. Otherwise, the person you are speaking to may not understand what you want them to do.

  • What is your need?

Example: I need to be able to count on you when we’re working together and know that you will be on time in the future to avoid any more awkward situations. If it isn’t possible for you due to an unforeseen event, I understand, but I would like you to inform me of it as soon as possible so that we can reschedule our appointment instead of falling behind.

Advice: Get straight to the point and explicitely state what you would like to happen. Always use “I”.

  • Q - the Question

Pose a question to that person so that they know exactly what you expect of them in the future.

  • What is your question?

  • What do you hope to get out of this discussion?

Example: Can I can count on you to be on time for our appointments and keep me informed otherwise?

Advice: Keep your question clear and simple. The objective must be realistic and feasible. Boil your request down to a single, closed question.

  • C - the Contract

This is about getting two people to agree on the same objective. It is based on the desired result after the conversation.

  • Did you manage to come to an agreement on this objective?

  • Is it clear how things are going to function between the two of you in the future?

Example: We can therefore assume that in the future, we won’t have these types of problems anymore, since we have agreed that in order to move ahead with a project, we need to be punctual and keep each other informed when we’re running late. I look forward to continuing to work with you, and I think we make a good team!

Advice: Reformulate your question as a conclusion, and end the conversation on a positive point.

In a nutshell

  • You can apply this method to all types of situations in which you need to get a message through to someone.

  • Depending on the subject, using the RPNQC method to communicate doesn’t take up much time, as long as your discourse is well-constructed.

  • Choose your battles

  • Prepare what you have to say and put yourself in the other person’s position.

    • Are they going to understand the context, my feelings, needs and request?

    • Will they agree to what I’m asking them to do? Is it feasible?

    • Are the words I’m using appropriate and clear, and will they be well-received?

Don’t forget: communicating effectively means communicating clearly, trasnparently and constructively!

So are you ready to try out this method?

Don’t hesitate to give me your feedback (using the RPNQC method, of course ☺)!


Until next time,