Just about everyone agrees that communication can make or break relationships, both personal and professional. Yet we communicate every day, in so many ways, and simply hope to somehow be effective across barriers, through conflict and over clutter. But good communication is no easy feat – especially these days!
Many of us communicate without really thinking – we just talk, listen, type or read on auto-pilot. Being strategic and intentional is often the key to effective communication – simply take a little time to choose the right approach. I find that it helps to keep a few key things about communication top of mind:
- There is no “right” or “wrong” way to communicate. Many of us have strong opinions about what “good communication” really is, and we judge our coworkers as being either good or bad at communication. Chances are you could name more than one person right now that you think have poor communication skills. The reality is that those people probably just communicate differently than you – in a style that doesn’t mesh with your style. If you take the judgement away, and simply look for a better way – somewhere in the middle – to communicate with them, many frustrations and misunderstanding can be avoided.
- Communication is always a two-way street. We tend to focus on our end of communication – sharing our thoughts, opinions and feelings. This is true whether we are in a one-on-one coffee, on the phone, sending an email, participating in a team meeting, or making a formal presentation to a large group. The problem is that we forget to think about our audience – yet they are an equal part of communication. If we think about their perspective, priorities and personality before we communicate we can often avoid issues.
- Perception is reality, and adaptation is king! In order to improve your interactions, you first need to understand and accept how your communication style is perceived by your colleagues. You need to learn about both your strengths and your weaknesses – discover what drives your coworkers crazy! Once you have this knowledge you will also have the power to adapt your communication to be more effective and impactful. Needed changes are often slight and subtle but will ultimately help your personal brand and your professional relationships. Embrace this power!! Taking just a few moments to thoughtfully choose the right tool, the right language, the right time, the right smile can make all the difference.