Effective Communication – What Does It Really Mean And How Can You Improve Yours
Almost every job description for a manager includes some variation of “must be an effective communicator” as part of the requirements. Problem with this is that if you poll (as I often do in my workshops) what people define as “Effective Communication” you will get a lot of different definitions. And that’s where the problem begins. Like every other aspect of the importance of clearly defining the requirements of the job, you must define what effective communication means.
One of the best definitions I have come across is this: Effective Communication is the art of understanding and being understood.
In any communicative interaction, there are two parties: the sender and the receiver. Whenever we communicate with someone, we are looking for a result. This may include just being heard and/or having that receiver take an action.
There are many forms of communication between the sender and receiver that can be either verbal or nonverbal. Verbal communication is what you commonly think of when you think of communication, the act of expressing yourself through speaking. On the other hand, nonverbal communication is more about the nonverbal cues that happen when you are not speaking. These nonverbal signals can be about your facial expression, body language, active listening skills, hand gestures, and so on. Having both good verbal communication and nonverbal communication is essential in establishing relationships within your personal and professional life
How each individual determines what is effective communication begins with how they are hardwired to communicate and that originates within your synaptic connections that lie between your neurons or brain cells. If you are a “hardwired” introvert, then your natural communication style tends to be more serious, direct and factual. If you’re a hardwired extrovert, then your natural communication style tends to be more friendly, persuasive and gregarious. And here is the important part; whatever way you are “hardwired” to communication is how you will determine what is considered normal, effective and therefore, the RIGHT WAY of communicating. And this typically results in believing that anyone who does it the opposite is doing it WRONG!
It is also important to point out that our definitions of effective communication also incorporate how we were taught, our values, experience, etc. But it is important to remember that the human brain was built to work on auto pilot or rather, the sub-conscious. And this means that if you are not consciously making an effort to adjust your “natural” communication style based on your lessons learned, experiences, etc. you will always default to your natural style of how you are hardwired.
As mentioned before, there is a science to how and what we define “effective communication” to be. Because our overall goal is to achieve strong communication skills in the workplace we must take the time to create an open communication channel that makes sense to the intended audience or receiver. We only have control over what we say, so if we do not take the time to develop these soft skills, we will hinder ourselves from developing leadership skills.
You receive an email from a co-worker who simply says “get me the production report.” If you’re an introvert, you may perceive this to be a totally normal, acceptable and effective form of communication – direct, to the point and efficient. On the other hand, if you’re an extrovert, your perception of this type of communication may be unclear, rude and some other words I can’t write in this post.
Now let’s reverse the situation. You’re an introvert and receive an email from an extrovert that looks something like this:
Hello Sarah, how are you today. Did you have a good time at the Mardi Gras Parade last night? I hope so; it looked like so much fun from the pictures you sent. Anyway, I was looking for the production report yesterday, when Ken called me to ask about how things were progressing, and when I went to look for them in the drop box folder in the file marked production reports – you know, where they are supposed to be saved. Well they were not there, and on and on and blah, blah, blah – which is all the introvert is now hearing.
Somewhere right after how are you today – you lost the attention of the introvert. What you meant to be a friendly, and informative email, became an intrusion on the introvert’s time which you are now wasting. To them, this may be perceived as extremely disrespectful and rude. And they probably never even finished reading your email to get to the part where you finally asked them to “please send you the report.”
In this employee engagement example, neither party showed effective workplace communication to one another. Since both parties did not know each other’s communication style, it led to poor communication with one another. Therefore, having bad communication within the workplace can ultimately result in strained relationships between both parties and the overall team communication.
Having good communication skills is essential not only with employee engagement in the workplace, but also in enhancing leadership skills for the future. Here are a few tips we gathered to help with your communication strategy:
- Learn your natural communication style and become more self-aware of how it is perceived by others.
- Learn the natural communication style of your co-workers (or anyone who you communicate with on a regular basis).
- Lose your judgments around what’s normal and right and begin to appreciate the differences and that they can both work effectively.
- Slightly adjust your communication style to deliver it in a manner this is “normal or effective” for them.
By understanding and applying this methodology, you will be amazed at how much more effective your communication becomes and as a result, you will achieve greater results.