Better communication is the best answer to any problem. So getting it right is very important
Better communication is the best answer to any problem. However we get it wrong perpetually. You are absolutely clear on what you are saying and the other person is absolutely clear in what they are hearing but you misunderstand.
For instance, I was proud of the fact that our company never used subcontractors, we only used our own people. I wrote we never used “labour only subcontractors”. I put it in a brochure – only to find that people were reading it in completely the opposite sense as we never use “labour”,”only subcontractors”. Whoops.
Consequences can be a lot more severe. On October 8, 2001, at Linate Airport, Milan, Italy. The runway was obscured by thick fog when a Cessna Citation CJ2 business jet was given clearance to taxi to a take off point. The Cessna pilot misunderstood and turned in the wrong direction to crossing the main runway. A Scandinavian Airlines Flight 686, a McDonnell Douglas MD-87 airliner was travelling at 170mph on the runway. 118 people were killed in the disaster.
So getting it right is very important - here are our top ten tips for better communication
The Top 10 Most Effective Communications Techniques and Strategies
You need to understand and to do that you need to hear. In a business context, taking notes as you listen is a great way of focusing on what is being said.
2) Stay Silent.
Staying silent but attentive, actually encourages the other person to share more information.
3) Ask Questions
Ask questions to clarify and reinforce the communication. Use both open ended questions – such as “What can we do for you?” and closed questions such as “Did you mean…?”. Your goal is to understand and asking both types of questions gets you there.
Questions are a great way to avoid basic misunderstandings about the reason for the conversation. For instance “How do you want to pay for that” avoids the situation where the other person thinks it is a free sample.
Feedback is great for clarification. To go one step further and gain empathy you should incorporate the phrases from the other person in your replies. So for example if they say “That’s a great house, I like the window frames.” A good response would be to include the word ,house, as opposed to say dwelling and window frames, rather than glazing bars. You could say, “Yes I’ve know that house for a few years – they recently had the window frames repainted”.
Consider the context of the communication. If the message is by email that will lead to some issues – the brevity of the message can cause misunderstandings. They can often feel abrupt and unfeeling. Phone conversations have their own challenges with words being misheard. Whatsapp messages have their issues. And of course if you are face to face body language and body impressions can also lead to misunderstandings. If you are aware of the drawbacks of each method then you won’t be too fast to leap to judgement”.
Stress in as situation is a killer for communication. You are in “fight or flight mode” and not in “sweet and reasonable mode”. Try and postpone the conversation until things have calmed down. In a business context inventing a boss who has to take decisions can be a good move – or may inflame the situation.
7) Smile – Get Enthusiastic
The act of smiling actually is a great way to start a phone conversation. It immediately makes you feel good and primes you to be enthusiastic and attentive.
8) Get On The Same Wavelength
When meeting someone eye contact is important – but be careful there are cultural differences. Staring into some ones eyes without blinking for minutes can be very intimidating. Shaking hands, kissing and hugging are areas where getting it right is difficult and cultures vary greatly.
If you appear bored, rushed, harassed or impatient you aren’t going to get onto anyone’s wavelength.
On the other hand if you can establish trust by being open and honest then you have come a long way to dispelling misunderstandings.
9) Language Choices
Unless you know someone really well, swearing is a complete no no.
The use of “I”and “we” is a minefield – and even more so in languages such as French where you have “Tu” and “Vous”. There is no substitute for learning and then tolerance.
Using simple sentence constructions with readily understood words is always a good idea.
10) It’s not About You
Communication is all about the exchange of ideas. It is not intended to prove your brilliance and mastery of technical terms. Feeling superior and demeaning the other person does not improve communication.
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