George Bernard Shaw said, “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” I’m sure that resonates with many of us who have had the opportunity to say, “But I told them…” when referring to the people in our lives – those with whom we live and work.
The word told infers a monologue, where one person has the floor and everyone else had better hear them – no if’s, and’s or but’s. Yet effective communication is the opportunity to invoke dialogue, where there is an exchange of information. And even in circumstances when the recipient of information has no choice but to implement direction, you still want to have some level of dialogue – because dialogue allows you to confirm the information was received, internalized and will be acted upon.
Four core elements to effective communication include:
1. Identify the purpose of the conversation.
Is the purpose of the conversation to give direction? To provide information? To gain approval or concurrence with an idea? To generate ideas? To solidify a vision? Often there will be multiple reasons for communicating. Having clarity around them will help you ensure the conversation results in the goal you desire.
2. Deliver an effective message.
Planning your delivery is critical. Research tells us 7% of the words we say contribute to effective communication. The rest of communication is based on how we say it. In fact, 38% of our message is influenced by the tone, volume and pitch of our voice. Ever decided to pull a workgroup together when you are furious that something didn’t get done correctly? It’s not a good idea (trust me, I’ve done it!); no one will hear your words while absorbed by the vibration of your hostility. Body movement accounts for the remaining 55% of how a message is heard. If you are pointing your finger, slapping the table roughly, swaying or pacing back and forth… it all influences the effectiveness of your message.
3. Test how you were heard.
Try to include some open-ended questions in your conversations where your listener’s response will tell you if your message was heard in the manner you intended. Go beyond “Does this make sense?” which can be answered yes or no… and doesn’t let you in on if your recipient heard what you were trying to say. Consider open-ended questions such as “How do you think our customers will react to this change?” or “What do you think will be the ramifications if we do this as I’ve suggested?”
4. Listen with intention.
Do your eyes dart around the room when someone else is speaking? Are you already internalizing your response when someone else is speaking? If so, you aren’t listening with intention. Listening is perhaps one of the most under-utilized skills in purposefully communicating. Slowing down to really absorb what someone is saying and watching their body language will result in true dialogue.
One of the many things I have discovered in my journey as a corporate leader and now as a consultant and coach is when one gets down to it, most of our biggest challenges revolve around relationships. And productive, healthy relationships are a result of effective communication – one conversation at a time. Be willing to be the person who invests in improving conversations and watch your experiences improve as a result.
If communication is becoming an issue for you or your team, I’d love to help you in assessing where you are and options for setting a new course. Just email me and we can set up a time to discuss your circumstances and how I might be able to help you change things for the better.