Every day, we communicate. Whether it’s asking your spouse if they’ve seen the car keys or debriefing with your work team about an uncompleted task, we’re constantly putting our communication skills to the test. But just how effectively are we communicating?
Communication is the backbone of society. It’s the number #1 skillset employers look for in employees, the secret ingredient to successful and working relationships, yet no one really knows what it looks like.
When it comes to the workplace or any situation for that matter, miscommunication can lead to serious repercussions. A simple question over car keys can result in an argument with your spouse; A work debrief can end with coworkers feeling resentment toward your leadership. Clique as it sounds, communication is key.
So, how can we implement good and effective communication? If looking for communication services for your company, no matter how big or small, there are many consulting services available to help redefine your workspace. For now, here are some simple communication tips to put to practice in your everyday conversations.
Relay What You Hear
When faced with an unhappy employee, client, spouse, or anyone posing a new idea—you know what’s the first thing you should say?
“So what I’m hearing is…”
Relay what’s being said. Let them know you’re listening and trying to understand them. Challenge yourself to understand what they are communicating to you. This changes the dynamic of the conversation by de-escalating any potential argument and allowing for a clear line of communication.
“I” Instead of “You”
Let’s not point the finger here. Making accusations is the most common mistake in communication. Using “I Statements” is not only effective in expressing your point, but it also prevents a defensive reaction. Here’s a simple technique to remember.
Use “I” when stating your feelings.
Instead of saying “You are always talking over me…” Start instead with, “I feel frustrated sometimes when… ” This creates space for perspective. Rather than accusing the person of doing something they may have had no intention of doing, you allow them to see how their actions have affected your feelings. You allow them to see your point of view.
Use “I” when connecting the feeling to a situation.
Now that you’ve stated how you feel, connect that feeling with the situation at hand. “I feel frustrated sometimes when we talk and I don’t get the opportunity to speak.”
State what you want to have happened.
Lastly, express what you would like to happen instead. “I feel frustrated sometimes when we talk and I don’t get the opportunity to speak. I would like it if we were both able to share our input.” Within one statement, you’ve expressed your feelings, the situation at hand, and the change you would like to occur without accusing, attacking, or offending the person you’re talking to.
Always Admits Your Mistakes
This seems simple, but many times, we fail to admit our wrongdoing in the situation. Especially in more hostile conversations, detailing the wrong in others’ actions is our first line of defense.
No matter how big or small the situation, allow yourself to always recognize and acknowledge when you’ve wronged someone. Even if you didn’t intend to hurt someone’s feelings, accept this, and apologize. Once you’ve taken responsibility for your actions, clear communication will begin.
An easy rule of thumb: always thank your listener for their time. You should aim to end every conversation, meeting, and difficult interaction by showing appreciation to them taking the time to listen.
This leaves room for effective, open conversation in the future, and ensures that you leave your discussion on a positive note. It’s a simple courtesy that goes a long way.
Be Aware of Body Language
Good body language works hand-in-hand with effective communication. Especially for those in leadership positions, it’s important to always beware of your body language.
Slouching, yawning, fidgeting, crossing your arms, and looking at your watch can send negative vibes to the person you’re communicating with. Practice positive body language: Make eye contact, smile, nod in agreement, sit up straight but still maintain a relaxed posture—body language is just as important as your words.
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