Thursday, September 20, 2018

How Effective is Your Communication?


Guest post from David Hiatt:

Lack of effective communication skills has done more to keep good people from being promoted into leadership roles than any other skill deficiency.  I hope I have your attention because in over 30 years of working with managers and organizations, my experience is that a lack of effective communication skills has kept very talented and skilled people from becoming leaders.  They have this great knowledge and skill set for the job requirements but communicating in a manner to get positive outcomes from others was sorely lacking.

Communication is a basic human need.  Interacting with other humans has been the core of human progress throughout the ages.  Isolation and lack of human interaction will emotionally, mentally, and physically debilitate a person; as will ineffective conversations.  On the other end of the spectrum, when you communicate effectively and achieve more positive outcomes you enhance your sense of well-being.  I don’t know about you, but I know that I would prefer to think and feel better.  

Just because two or more people are talking with each other does not necessarily mean they are communicating. Communication requires several key skills and components.  Key components include understanding yourself and others, creating agreements about the conversation, emotional involvement (or lack of), attitude and beliefs, and your comfort zone. Skills include listening, and questioning.  If you want to achieve more positive outcomes with co-workers, or family and friends the above skills and components will improve your communication.

Understanding the other person can be key.  When you can identify the behavioral style or preferences of the other people with whom you communicate you are better able to adapt your message in such a way that the other people have a better chance of understanding you.  An example of this would be communicating with a Dominant Style who prefers, direct, to the point, task-oriented interactions and you want to chit-chat about the weather.  That Dominant person will not be engaged, and the odds of a positive outcome diminish. 

Another way to understand the others with whom you communicate is to determine if they are being emotional, judgmental, or just exchanging information; and then being self-aware enough to make sure that you are nurturing and sharing information without judgement or emotion.  It is okay to care enough to want a positive outcome but if you attempt to communicate when simply reacting to your or the other person’s emotions it is not unusual to find yourself in a shouting match with negative outcomes.

I have found that when you set goals and expectations for the important conversations you tend to get better results. What I mean is that the conversation should have an agreed upon purpose, confirmation of the time allotted, agreed upon agendas and expectations of people engaged in the conversation, and a goal or outcome at the end of the conversation.  When you add the component of a mutual agreement at the beginning of those important conversations you are better able to control the direction and therefore the outcome of the conversation.

Emotional involvement is double-edged.  As I mentioned earlier, you want to care enough to accomplish a positive outcome at the end of the conversation, yet you should not be communicating emotionally.  If you are communicating from your emotional ego-state, you will not be able to think objectively or to listen clearly.  Emotions will always cloud your thinking and cause you to say or to respond in a manner that will result in a less than positive outcome.

Your attitude and beliefs are intertwined with your self-concept and create your view of reality.  The important thing to remember is that the other person or people with whom you are communicating will not have the same view.  According to each person’s view, they are right.  Whatever beliefs you were taught or acquired throughout your life will become your definition of normal.  Your subconscious’ job is to keep you normal, whatever normal means to you.  Do a self-assessment of your attitudes and beliefs and decide which are still appropriate as an adult and which are hurting your efforts to be a more effective communicator.

Listening is a skill that much has been written about.  I urge you to read as much as you can on listening skills.  My experience has taught me that listening is much more than just looking at the other person and nodding my head! I must make sure that I am understanding what they are saying and the intention behind it.  This means the good listening skills should include good questioning skills. When you are unsure of what the other person is asking or saying you must ask them to clarify.  Be careful.  Your belief that it is rude to ask so many questions may prevent you from asking the key questions for real understanding, which, by the way, is what real listening is about.

David Hiatt is author of FROM THE BOARDROOM TO THE LIVING ROOM:  Communicate With Skill For Positive Outcomes. After 10 years of owning and operating a successful Sandler Training center, he was recruited by Sandler corporate to handle the bulk of national and international training through the Global Accounts division. With a BA and Masters in Communications, he is a passionate and energetic program leader who is truly concerned with helping others to grow, develop, and communicate.

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