By: Kate Patulski
Communication is the foundation of human interaction. It is the method we use to exchange information, express ourselves, and be heard. Effective communication skills will create opportunities or close doors. These skills can create more clarity or a sense of confusion. They can also create connection or division Proper usage can build your reputation, but a failure to communicate can be devastating. In your personal life or professional life, improving your communication skills can have an enormous payoff leading to a greater sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.
Did You Know?
Before you start improving your communication, here are some interesting things to consider:
- 86% of employees and executives blame a lack of effective collaboration and communication as the leading cause of errors in the workplace.
- Research conducted by the US firm, Gartner, reveals poor communication is responsible for 70% of corporate errors.
- 80% of US workers experience anxiety because of ineffective company communication
- Statistics show that 69% of employees would work harder if they felt appreciated by their employers. They would also be 4.6 times more motivated to produce quality work if they felt like their voice mattered.
- Up to 80% of all conversations consist of some level of gossip, according to Dr. Nicholas Elmer.
- Research suggests that a majority of individuals spend 60% of their conversations talking about themselves. This number increases significantly (80%) when communicating on social media outlets.
- Effective communication is the foundation of conflict resolution. Only 31% of managers feel skilled at dealing with conflict and only 22% of employees felt their manager dealt with conflict well. Interestingly enough, most people spend at least 3 hours a week at work addressing conflict. Most managers can spend up to 60% of their week resolving conflict.
Communication skills are the most desired characteristic employers seek, and the leading reason people choose to work with or hire someone. This includes the consumer choosing a professional to help them achieve a result, such as increasing their financial well-being, helping them buy or sell real estate, or entering into a patient/provider relationship.
3 Ways To Become More Effective
With focus and a desire to improve your communication skills, you can reap the rewards of effective communication.
Listen More, Talk Less
Because human beings spend 60% of their time in conversation talking about themselves, it’s no surprise that many listen with the intent to respond rather than listening to understand. When you listen with the intent to understand, you will immediately notice that you will ask more questions, which puts the focus on your listener. Clarifying questions will provide valuable information and enhance your ability to communicate effectively.
Some possible clarifying questions would be:
- “Can you expand on that?”
- “Could you tell me more about that?”
- “What does that mean, specifically?”
- “Could you elaborate?”
- “What does that mean?”
As the saying goes, “People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.”
Create Clarity, Reduce Chaos
As a coaching organization, we have worked with tens of thousands of people. One aspect of our work is providing an opportunity to take internal dilemmas (self-talk, thoughts, ideas, concerns) and bring those concerns into the external world to be examined and dealt with appropriately. Talking is a way we make sense of our ideas and thoughts. Unfortunately, much of what we say in conversation is irrelevant. We tend to ramble, leaving the conversation with a lot of words but no clarity around what’s next or a resolution to a problem. To improve your communication skills, learn to help the speaker make sense of their thoughts and how to act on them.
There are two simple ways to help your speaker walk away with clarity instead of chaos:
- Reframe: When there is a break in their dialogue, reframe what they have said. It may sound like this, “So, what I am sensing is you have realized that this is the time to make a move. What’s really important to you is putting a plan together that achieves your goals, did I get that right?”
- Utilize this 3 step conversation model:
- Step 1: What’s going on?
- Step 2: What really matters?
- Step 3: What do you want to do about it?
Create Safety for Vulnerability
As human beings, we like to be presentable and correct when providing information. When we enter a conversation, especially those that may escalate to conflict or a difference of opinion, we often speak and listen to be right rather than to achieve resolution. These types of conversations lead nowhere and usually leave both parties feeling frustrated. When you create safety for your listener, you will find a deeper connection can be achieved as a result of your conversation. This way, the time you spend together becomes more effective.
One way to create safety for your listener is to acknowledge their questions, concerns, and insecurities without talking about your own experiences. Pay close attention to how you respond, your response will either open the door or shut down the conversation.
- A simple response to an objection or concern might be: “I hear what you’re saying and honestly, if I were in your shoes, I might see it the same way.”
- A response to a question might be: “That’s a great question, I’m glad you brought it up. It shows you are focused on making a strategic decision.”
- A response to insecurity might be: “I don’t know exactly how you feel, but I’ve felt uneasy when I am making big decisions. What I’ve found is focusing more on the outcome helped me overcome some of the obstacles… So, what is your outcome?”
By focusing on your responses, you can open the conversation allowing you to be more effective and influential. In this age of technology, communication is becoming a skill that is difficult to maintain without exerting effort. Auto-responders, voice mail, text messages, and e-mail have allowed quicker interactions, but there is an aspect of communication that is lost in the process. Speaking face-to-face is the best method to develop relationships, followed by Zoom Calls and telephone conversations, which allow you to hear emotion and enunciation within the context of the discussion. Understanding the perspective of the speaker and the listener is paramount to engaging and effective communication. Actively pursuing a method of effective communication can be a life-changing and career-changing habit.
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