I was wondering how to begin this blog and started thinking about how I could create a sense of urgency to get readers to understand why communicating effectively is so important.
Let’s flip this around for a minute – I’ll wonder if you could count five negative by-products of ineffective communication you’ve experienced in the past month before reading the next paragraph? For instance;
- Have you ever left a meeting and each person in there left with a different take on what was actually discussed?
- Have you ever had someone try to fix your issue before they really knew the full details of the problem?
- Have you ever met someone and felt like things just didn’t ‘click’?
- Have you ever tried to get a really simple point across to someone, but came away feeling like they just didn’t ‘get it’?
- Have you ever witnessed a manager spell out their expectations of their team, only to then behave the complete opposite way themselves?
It soon becomes very clear that most of us could probably benefit from giving some attention to our communication skills. In the workplace, communication barriers are always present, messages can get lost in translation and above all, we are human. So how can we minimise our slip-ups and develop our skills?
- The main objective in communication is usually understanding.
Given that it is sometimes so hard for us to say what we really mean; knowing this it makes it even more important to listen with your ears … brain and heart! Really…listen for what is being said and meant.
How can you do that? This is a habit that even the best ‘communicators’ (aka meaning interpreters) are continually developing and practicing.
Get in rapport – I appreciate that this is very ‘Neuro-Linguistic Programming-y’ of me but, hear me out. This doesn’t mean you have to act like you are their best friend. It doesn’t mean mirror their body language. It doesn’t mean that you have to copy their wording.
Getting in rapport with someone means you are able to relate to them in a way that creates trust and understanding. It means you have the ability to see their perspective without feeling like you’ve made some sort of concession. Being in rapport doesn’t mean you have to agree with their point of view or even like it, but simply to respect it.
- Choose the right method
In a busy, commercially-focused environment, everyone has different communication style preferences, and we are learning more and more about them every day: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, auditory-digital, introvert, extrovert, passive, the list goes on…
The effective communicator won’t be overly concerned about their own communication style preference, but more to the point; they will focus on the other person’s preferred style.
If the main point of communication really is understanding, then give them a hand! People are leaking suggestions all the time about the way they like to receive information. Listen to them talk, watch them in action, observe how they approach you (phone, E-Mail, wander straight over to the desk…) and consider how best you might amend your style to suit their preferences to get your message across more effectively.
- “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I see a lot of training offerings on the topic of communication, a lot of which claims to teach techniques to communicate more effectively and a lot of which comments on Mehrabian’s communication research (communication is “7% Words, 38% Tone 55% Body language”) so, we understand there is weight behind the statement – “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.”.
But the thing that is missing here is that in business, it goes a bit deeper than how you communicate in that moment.
Everything has context. People don’t just ‘forget’ who you are. The understanding of what you say relies heavily on their past experience of you. So that said, if I walk around the office jeering at people for the gaps in their development, how credible do you think they might deem me to be when delivering training or coaching them?