The key to effective communication is to ensure that both parties feel respected and understood. This is critical in creating a foundation for the meaningful exchange of thoughts and ideas. You don’t necessarily have to fully agree with each other, but a positive conversation is more likely to move things along towards a solution.
There are a few guidelines that can help to ensure positive communication skills.
Let’s take a situation with an employee who habitually rolls in 10 minutes late for work.
Keep the conversation focused.
This means concentrating on the issue at hand, the lateness, without pulling in a lot of other unconnected issues, for example, their job performance. This helps to keep the communication succinct and to the point.
Keep it positive.
Steer clear of personal criticism and negative statements and focus on behaviours. Frame your requests in a positive way, so “I want you to arrive at work on time” will be received better than “I don’t want to see you getting in late again.”
Let them know why it’s important.
If they can understand how their behaviour impacts others, they may gain a deeper understanding of why it’s a problem. For example, “when you don’t arrive on time, it puts a real pressure on the other team members during that busy first half hour.”
Ask for their input.
Give the other person the opportunity to explain their side of the story and really listen to them. In this instance, you might discover there are issues that are outside of your employee’s control, such as a bus that regularly doesn’t turn up.
Show you understand.
One of the main goals in a communication is to be heard. If you can let the other person know that you hear and understand them, it helps reduce defensiveness, e.g. “I can see how frustrating it is when the bus doesn’t turn up.”
Find a way to help.
Making an offer to support shows that you are willing to work with them to resolve the problem.
How about when you are talking to a group of people? How do you command people’s attention?
Communicate with your body.
It’s not just about what you say, but how you look as you say it. A confident stance with open body language is more engaging than standing with your arms crossed. Think about how your favourite singer performs; they probably don’t just stand still and face the front, they will move and engage the audience on all sides. Try to emulate this way of using a stage, and you are more likely to hold people’s attention.
Be inclusive in your choice of words.
We all like to talk about ourselves, but try to avoid too much use of ‘me’ and ‘I’. If you are talking to a group you know well, you can pick out individual’s names, for example, ‘as Susan was saying to me the other day…..’. With a larger audience, the use of ‘we’ and ‘you’ helps to create a feeling that the whole team is involved.
Almost any statement can be reframed from a negative into a positive. Of course, sometimes you can’t avoid giving bad news, but you can temper it with a positive statement to support it. So instead of ‘sales are really poor this quarter’ you could say ‘sales are not where we want them to be, but we know the demand is there, so there is a huge opportunity to drive some growth next quarter.’
Effective communication is as much about HOW you say something as WHAT you say – and remember that communication is two way. Give the other party full opportunity to give their views and ensure you really listen to what they say.
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