I have a theory that most of the stresses and challenges we face on a daily basis can be attributed to poor communication.
Failed marriages, teenage-parent tensions, grumpy customers, disgruntled employees, frustrated employers, unreliable suppliers. Most of these situations can be avoided with effective communication skills.
The challenge is that communication is one of the most difficult things to achieve. We naturally avoid having tough conversations, we mutter to ourselves or behind peoples backs rather than tackling an issue head on, and we blame the other party for not understanding us.
In reality, “communication is the response you get”. So if your team fails to deliver to your expectations, perhaps the problem is the way you communicate your expectations.
Here are a few factors to consider when you assess the way you communicate.
Telling and listening
Effective communication is as much about listening to the other person as it is about telling the other person something. So often, you can miss the point because you are already thinking about your response before the other person has finished talking. You can often communicate better when you ask questions. Instead of berating an employee for non-delivery, ask why the delivery was not achieved. Instead of defending yourself to an unhappy customer, ask what can be done to resolve the problem.
Listening for understanding
One of the most effective strategies I have ever encountered when two parties have a tough conversation is to give the other person an opportunity to talk without being interrupted. After the person has finished, you need to repeat what was said by starting with…”So what I am hearing is that…(you repeat what was said)…and that makes you feel…(demonstrate an understanding of what was said)”. That way, the person truly feels heard, and by articulating their side of the story yourself, you have a better understanding of what the person is trying to communicate.
Words and behaviours
Remember that communication is not only about the words you use. Your body language, your tone, and your behaviours can sometimes communicate more than you realise. You may be good at articulating how you feel or what you want, but the way in which you articulate it can be the difference between effective and non-effective communication.
Tailor your message for the audience
Take the person / audience into account when you communicate. Don’t speak to educated adults as if they are children. You shouldn’t beat around the bush with A-type personalities who want you to get to the point. Don’t paint everyone with your paintbrush. Be aware that you can’t necessarily communicate with others the way you like to be communicated with. Everyone is different.
Miscommunication is the biggest culprit when it comes to delivering on expectations. Vague comments, subtle hints and throw-away lines do nothing to enhance understanding and clarity. When you expect people to interpret what you mean, you are opening yourself up to miscommunication.
Goal and outcome based communication
Before you have a conversation, ask yourself what you want to achieve from the conversation. Do you want a motivated team member, or a disgruntled employee? Do you want to be on the same page and have clear direction on the next steps? If you have the desired outcome in mind, you will tailor your communication accordingly.
I help many business owners with the challenges in their business. I can’t tell you how often the challenges are resolved through effective communication – aligning expectations, having the tough conversations, and making things clear. If this is something your business struggles with, give me a call and let’s get it right.
Communication is worth working on. As Tony Robbins says, “The quality of your life is the quality of your communication”.
Have a great weekend.