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Four Tips to Building Improved Communication






The cornerstone for many forms of life is the ability to communicate effectively. Why is this important? Communicating effectively could be the difference between life and death. Messages can be communicated verbally or nonverbally. How important is communicating your message to others so you achieve your desired goal or outcome? How willing are you to listen to others to help create the desired result the first time? When messages are unclear, the expected outcome can be compromised, delayed, and/or not happen at all.

In this blog we will take a look at:

What is effective communication?

Listening
Nonverbal cues
Managing stress
Emotional awareness

There are many ways and forms we can use to convey our messages such as:

Voice: Defined by tone, pitch, emotion, and words being spoken

Writing: Defined by tone and interpretation of what is written no matter what the vehicle is (ie, social media, text, email. letter, books or magazines)

Nonverbal: Defined by body language

Merriam-Webster defines communication as an act or process of transmitting information or an exchange of information between individuals through a common system of signs, symbols, or behavior. Pictorial representation is a usable channel

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction defines communication as a process by which we assign and convey meaning in an attempt to create shared understanding. This process requires a vast repertoire of skills in intrapersonal and interpersonal processing, listening, observing, speaking, questioning, analyzing, and evaluating. Use of these processes is developmental and transfers to all areas of life: work, home, school, community, and beyond. It is through communication that collaboration and cooperation occur.

Let’s look at the following scenarios that can take place daily in the work environment where effective communication can improve productivity and create cost savings.

Scenario 1: The New Employee

A new hire has been made. All involved in making the decision for this person to come on board are very pleased and believe this was the best candidate for the position. This person’s employment history was exceptional. This person has a firm grasp of what the position entails. Although this person’s background is more than adequate it must be realized that this is a new environment to this person and it will be necessary to be acclimated to the company’s culture and processes. What plan should this company have in place to help this person get acclimated quickly?

Scenario 2: The Micromanager

A meeting takes place between a manager and a subordinate. When the meeting concluded both parties walked away believing that the desired deliverable was understood. The meeting ends with the manager stating, “If you have any questions, please ask because I want you to be successful.” In addition to the discussion, a sample was provided and a deadline given. The subordinate went away and began to work on the project following the sample that was given and based on his/her understanding of the discussion.

As directed, during the development process the subordinate asked additional questions to make sure the project would meet expectations. Some of the answers provided were confusing or ambiguous. So, instead of continuing to ask questions the subordinate began to work in isolation because a high level of frustration had been reached. There was also the feeling of “I don’t know what to ask because when I do the answers are flippant or make no sense.” The assignment was delivered as agreed; however, during the review process the deliverable was changed completely by the manager and returned to the subordinate for revisions. What happened in this scenario? What could have been done to make this outcome different?

Scenario 3: Cross-Functional Team Interaction

The core team consists of three people and the remainder is comprised of ancillary staff that provides support. The team leader and one of the members of the core team have a comfortable relationship where trust has been established. The third member of the team often misses agreed upon deadlines and is a source of much concern and frustration for all involved. As internal deadlines are continuously missed and client expectations are unmet, the internal core team tries without success to create additional strategies to get the job completed on time. The ancillary team members become increasingly vocal about the delays causing increased stress on the team leader. How would you manage a situation where an individual habitually misses agreed upon deadlines and impacts client relationships?

Communication can either provide clarity or confusion, be a catalyst for inviting cross boundary collaboration and cooperation, or cause discord among the ranks. True communication can inspire us to take on challenges and/or address challenging thoughts. In some instances, it can stop activity and have us wondering why we bothered in the first place. It can be stimulating and provide a profound experience, or simply be inspiring.

Effective communication is a learned skill. It helps us better understand an individual or circumstance, allows us to resolve differences, build trust and respect, and produce environments where creative ideas, problem solving, affection, and caring can flourish. As simple as communication can be, much of what we or others try to communicate gets misunderstood, which can cause conflict and frustration in professional and personal relationships.

Communication Skill Building

Listening: Successful listening creates not just understanding words or the information being communicated, but also understanding how the speaker feels about what they are communicating. It is paramount to create an environment where listening becomes an important skill and creates an atmosphere where everyone feels safe to express ideas, opinions, feelings, plan, or problem solve in creative way. It can also diffuse negative emotions because the speaker is allowed to express their thoughts uninterrupted.

Tips for good listening include:

Be 100% present and focusing on the speaker. This includes making note of body language and other nonverbal cues. You should not be checking messages on your cell phone, laptop, or tablet.

Avoid interrupting the speaker. Very often the speaker can read your facial expressions and know that you have concerns or not focused on what is being said.

Do not be judgmental, place values, ideas or opinions. We can agree to disagree. However, it is important to understand the position of the person speaking. The most difficult conversations can bring about great ideas.

Show interest in what is being said by simply nodding or smiling at the person speaking and making sure your body language is open.

Nonverbal: This form of communication includes body language, facial expression, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, tone of voice, muscle tension, and breathing. Understanding nonverbal communication can help you connect with others, express true meaning, navigate challenging situations, and build better relationships. Nonverbal communication can be improved by uncrossing arms, standing with an open stance, sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact. This form of communication can be enhanced by patting someone on the back while verbally complimenting them.

Tips for improving nonverbal cues include:

Practice watching people in public places. Try to guess what their relationships are with others they interact with.

Be aware of cultural, age, religious, gender, and emotional differences.

Observe signals as a group. Anyone can slip occasionally.

Nonverbal cues should match up with words and reinforce what is being said, not contradict it.

Alter signals according to audience.

Utilize body language to express positive feeling even when you are not feeling that way.

Managing Stress: Stress was not meant to be sustained over long periods of time. If allowed to flourish it can overwhelm and be a deterrent to effective communication. It becomes difficult to make good decisions because your body and mind are over taxed. When stressed it is easy to misread other people, send confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals, and slip into unhealthy knee-jerk patterns of behavior. It is important to be in a calm relaxed state to be aware of how to respond in any given situation.

Tips for managing stress:

Recognize stress signals. The body muscles or stomach may become tight or sore. Hands may be clenched. Breathing may be shallow or you may forget to breathe altogether.

Before continuing a conversation takes a moment to calm down before deciding to continue or postpone.

Calm the senses by taking deep breathes (inhaling through the nose and releasing the air via mouth), clench and relax muscles, or transcend yourself using a sensory-rich image. Find things that are soothing.

Look for humor in the situation, be willing to compromise or agree to disagree.

Emotional Awareness:

Learn to recognize and accept your emotions. The way you respond to emotional nonverbal cues affects both understanding of other people and how they understand you. If you are not in touch with your feelings, and don’t understand how you feel or why you feel that way, it will be difficult to communicate feelings for yourself and others. This can result in frustration, misunderstandings, and conflict. When you don’t address what’s really bothering you, you often become involved in petty interactions instead of focusing on the issues. Emotional awareness is a skill that can be learned with patience and practice any time of life. You can develop emotional awareness by getting in touch with difficult emotions and managing uncomfortable feelings, including anger, sadness, fear, disgust, surprise, and joy. When you develop the ability to do this, you can remain in control of your emotions and behavior, even in very challenging situations, and communicate more clearly and effectively. When emotional awareness is developed it becomes easier to understand what someone is really communicating and act accordingly.

Tips for Creating Emotional Awareness:

Find a healthy balance between intellect and emotions and thinking and feeling.
Make an effort to empathize with others.

Understand what is troubling you and what you want out of a particular situation.
Be motivated to understand and empathize with the person you are interacting with, even when you don’t like them or agree with their message.

When delivering a negative message, communicate clearly and effectively.
Develop strong, trusting, and rewarding relationships, think creatively, solve problems and resolve conflicts quickly.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” Tony Robbins

Suggested Reading: Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott



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About the Author

Joanne McGhee, SageELT, LLC
73 Herbert Terrace
West Orange, NJ 07052
9736506770

Contact Author: request info

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