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Talk Is Cheap
Talk Is Cheap Unless You Know Its True ValUe
Often I have clients ask me how they can become better communicators, and this past week the topic came up again when a client asked me to work with her on improving her communication skills as a leader. As I thought about this topic it was clear to me that sharing some key points that allow for true understanding and specific things to do will be extremely helpful to share as communication skills top the list of fundamental skills needed to succeed in anything.
Why is communication so important?
Communication is needed in everything that you do and all that you want. It is vital to expressing yourself and translating your intentions and feelings into easily understandable messages. Communication is a two way process that helps to produce a greater understanding of information being given and being received which aids in all aspects of life.
Why are we all challenged by the same thing?
The challenge we all share is we each have a unique communication style that has been learned or adopted over our lifetime, and although it has gotten us this far, it may not be the most effective way to communicate.
Here are some examples of different scenarios that can lead to other communication challenges:
- You avoid issues and allow hard-to-speak truths to never be expressed for fear of stepping on someone’s toes or hurting their feelings and they turn into resentment and anger.
- You communicate from your head and without emotion. You think what you communicated made perfect sense, but it landed differently for the other person, and came across as cold.
- You have an issue with a person, but you “vent” your problem to an entirely different person who lacks the ability to resolve the issue.
- You inherited a destructive communication style and you have created unproductive habits that play out in your current relationships that make you unapproachable.
- You take a passive approach and put others’ needs ahead of your own, making it difficult to understand what you really want, need and desire.
- You are more interested in being right rather than seeking to connect and understand, which leads to a one sided conversation and a lack of trust.
- You create stories about what you think happened, or what might happen without having enough information and all the facts. You also try to predict what someone else is thinking and feeling, and you try to anticipate what they will do. This causes you to expend emotional energy that is unnecessary about a situation that you aren’t sure is real or imagined.
What is the most important thing in communicating? The most important thing in communicating effectively is discovering what isn’t being said! Effective communication requires a diverse skill set that encompasses both verbal and nonverbal communication cues, as well as active listening. It takes practice, awareness and intention to develop effective communication skills.
Here are some specific things you can do to improve your communication skills:
- Know your current communication style - Bring awareness to how you communicate now. What needs to be added or removed from your current communication style in order for it to be more effective? Make a list after reviewing this one.
- Know Your Audience - Who you are speaking to will dictate the style of communication you use with that person. Words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.You would not use the same communication with a child as you would with an adult. Make sure that you use words that the other person will understand and fit the situation, you will better connect to people this way.
- Use the “Right Method” - Before having the conversation have you considered these 5 areas for ensuring you have it right. Ask yourself these questions:
- Right Person - Who is the person I should be having this conversation with? Am I the right person to be having this conversation?
- Right Time - Is this the right time to be having this conversation or is there a different time I should consider?
- Right Place - Is this the place to be bringing up this conversation or is there a more suitable place?
- Right Words - What is the purpose of this conversation and what are the words that I want to convey to the person to ensure they understand its purpose?
- Right Way - What is the right way to communicate this message? Is it best over text, phone, email, video, in person or with an expert. Does it call for lots of details or is brevity better?
- Use Empathy - Being able to understand the feelings of those around you is an integral part of being an effective communicator. Empathizing means both understanding and relating to someone else’s feelings. Having high emotional intelligence and demonstrating an ability to empathize builds rapport and trust between you and others. Concentrate on validating the other person’s feelings, rather than inserting your own opinions. You can say, “I appreciate you sharing this with me” or “That makes sense,” or, “I can see that.” Validating does not mean that you have to agree, it simply means that you are interested in what the other person has to say and how they feel.
- Presentation Matters - How you say something matters as much as what you say. You can derail an entire conversation if you do not communicate with care and with love, even when discussing a difficult topic. Use intention and thoughtfulness with each conversation. You want to feel proud of how you handled the conversation once it is over. To avoid conflict and misunderstandings, calm yourself down before having or continuing a conversation, be aware of your tone and your nonverbal cues. Take ownership for your behavior and avoid blaming. Use “I” statements rather than “You”.
- Listen To Understand - What does the person want you to know and understand by having this conversation? You can't communicate effectively, listen actively or understand entirely when you're distracted. This means half listening, multitasking, being dismissive, using electronics, planning what you're going to say next, or interrupting. You risk what isn’t being said by missing verbal and nonverbal communication cues. Use eye contact that shows you are right there in the conversation with them. Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your body language is open and inviting. You can also paraphrase back to them what you understand them to be saying. Ask clarifying questions that can aid in the overall understanding of the conversation. “What I hear you saying is …….am I understanding you correctly?”
- Be Clear & Be Specific - Be direct, clear & concise with your communication. Say what you really want to say and eliminate irrelevant details and filler words that do not add additional value and can detract from your message, cause confusion or miscommunications. Know when to be assertive when sharing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an honest and genuine way. Standing up for yourself doesn’t have to be confrontational, but say it confidently.
- Speak To Be Understood - As an effective communicator, your number one purpose is to communicate in a way that people understand. Your communication will always generate a response, but if you fail to speak in a way that seeks to be understood, you have not effectively communicated. Know the reason for having the conversation and tell the person in advance what you want to discuss with them so they have time to get ready and also be prepared for a productive conversation.
There are many benefits and advantages in learning how to effectively communicate and they are the following:
- Improve both your personal and professional relationships
- Build greater trust and respect
- Resolve conflicts & issues better
- Provide clarity & direction
- Increase productivity & engagement with you and others
- Improve overall social and emotional health
- Become influential & persuasive with what is important to you
Take a quick communication Quiz to discover your communication tendencies: https://communication-styles.com/communication-styles-quiz/
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