Communication Is An Important Business Issue, But It Is Also Part Of Our Day-To-Day Lives.
By Thomas J. Roach
Like eating, exercise and working, communication is a habit. As we start 2013 and make resolutions to eat less, exercise more and enjoy life, we might do well to include a few resolutions about communicating. Here are my recommendations:
A good listening habit to develop is always to assess the situation before offering suggestions or advice or providing direction. You can trigger this two-way process by routinely asking at least one question before offering your thoughts.
We all know that if we eat and exercise and work whenever we feel like it we will have a problem. The same is true for communication. Before speaking it is always useful to ask yourself, “What result do I want?” Much of the time all we ask ourselves is “What do I want to say?” and then we say it, and we get the wrong result. Of course anyone who holds a professional job knows not to insult coworkers, but being strategic applies to many other more subtle situations. Words that are critical, forgiving, comforting, inquisitive, or passive are among the options we choose from when we speak, and all of them can produce good or bad results in a given situation.
Most adults know that lying leads to trouble, but that doesn’t keep us from practicing a little misdirection when we find ourselves in difficult situations. To be really honest we have to utter honest words with honest intent. Anything else is insincere, and insincerity leads to the same problems as lying; it just takes longer to get there.
Agree to Disagree
Just because someone or some group disagrees with us doesn’t mean they are stupid or hostile.
The mature approach to a disagreement is to respect the person but politely disagree with the argument. This makes it possible to interact profitably on other issues and, if need be, change your mind or even admit you were wrong at a later date.
Speak to the Point
Most professionals know that when they give a formal speech they should prepare an outline. Then all the important points get covered and the speaker avoids redundancies. A good communication habit to develop is to make a sort mental plan and follow it whenever you speak.
Communication is so easy that it is always tempting to postpone it. Spouses, children and parents need to hear that we love them, and employees and coworkers need us to recognize that they did well or screwed up, and that in either case they are appreciated.
Whatever someone’s job is, there is a body of literature that supports it. Just a disciplined ten minutes reading on a subject each workday would make experts out of most of us, and it would save countless hours lost to misunderstandings and bad decisions.
Evaluate and Adjust
Communication is a fluid, evolving, life-long experience. As children, our mothers put soap in our mouths to teach us not to say bad words. In school, teachers write comments in the margins of our essays to make us better writers.
Then we begin careers, and no one has the responsibility to correct us. As adults we have to work to get feedback if we want to keep growing. Of course, if you ask a subordinate or a peer what they thought of an explanation or an announcement you made, they will likely tell you what a great job you did.
A request for feedback needs to be specific, safe and a little demanding. A good approach might be something like, “Do me a favor and name something that I could have done better.”
It doesn’t matter if you are interacting with the engineer who designed the heavy equipment, the hourly employee who operates it, or the neighbor who is complaining about the noise – the quality of all human interaction is dependent of the quality of communication.