Communication can solve, or cause problems. It is the way we represent ourselves, make requests, share how we feel about the world and others. It’s our personal marketing and branding tool. I believe it is one of the most important intangible assets we have as human beings. How are you using yours?
Have you ever been upset with someone but after learning the details, realized that thing you were so upset about didn’t even exist or occur? Or perhaps you’ve been the victim of someone else’s anger as a result of their misunderstanding? Communication or the lack there of is powerful enough to make or break any relationship.
Before maturing into a better communicator, I approached matters with a strict no-nonsense demeanor. It was part of my personal development strategy—operation “build confidence.” I had been given feedback that it would be nice to hear from me in meetings because I seemed to have great ideas but was afraid of sharing them. I would wait until the meeting was over to share with someone I trusted and hoped would find my ideas worthy enough to bring back to the group. When looking for the root of what caused me to behave this way, lack of confidence was at the top of the list. I vowed to myself that I would seek the opportunity to share more of my thoughts.
Executing on my plan, I had rapidly gone from one extreme to another. I delivered my thoughts directly and to the point. My ideas were being heard and sometimes implemented, but some people began distancing themselves and seemed to be irritated with me. My communication style was hurting my brand.
As I transitioned into this confidence of speaking up for myself on behalf of my ideas, I neglected to focus on the art of message delivery. I wasn’t paying attention to my audience and how my words might impact them. It’s important to understand even in business that people are emotional beings and tend to have emotional reactions to differing concepts that result in change.
Here are some things I’ve focused on to improve my communication:
- Listen with the intent to understand vs. respond.
- Be self-aware of how your communication style is perceived by others. Ask for feedback.
- Do your homework. Know your audience. How will the message impact them, what’s in it for them, and most importantly what do they stand to lose?
- Communicate with compassion.
- Mimic skills you admire about an effective communicator.
- Clarify if you think there is a chance your message is being misinterpreted.
- When emotionally attached to the topic:
- Avoid discussing when you are upset.
- Gather and focus on the facts.
- Before speaking, consider whether what you have to say will add value to the desired outcome. If not, it’s probably better left unsaid.
Use your communication power responsibly. Two things you can’t take back are words and time. There are many benefits to being a good listener at work.
The Toastmasters program is one way to enhance your communication and leadership skills. Check out their website to see if there’s a group near you.