Talk is cheap, but the wrong sort of talk, or lack of it, can prove extremely expensive for a business. A customer can be lost, you can be accused of harassment, relationships can be damaged or you lose your credibility. Knowing how to communicate effectively can save you a lot of time and money by getting the job done quickly and correctly, increase your professional image, build relationships and make life much easier. It does pay to talk, when you get it right.
As we have been communicating since birth, you would think it would be easy to get it right. It’s just common sense. The problem with common sense is that it is not that common! Problems tend to arise because emotions, knee jerk reactions, irrational thinking, time, and limiting beliefs tend to get in the way. Most of the problems in the workplace tend to stem from poor communication at some level.
One would think in this technological age, with the ability to communicate in so many ways and at high speed, that we should be able to get the message across. This does not seem to be the case. In fact, it can make it worse. Too much reliance on the written word can lead to misunderstanding, and involve too many people in the issue.
The power of communication has been demonstrated over the years. We can inspire, create change, enlighten; or we can hurt, cause conflict, confuse, bully or demotivate. Do we give enough thought to our everyday conversations at work?
Here are 10 tips to improve verbal communication
1. Treat communication as a game of tennis, not a game of golf. Share the air time. Let the other person have their say and don’t monopolise or interrupt. Give them space to finish what they are saying.
2. Remember you have two ears and one mouth, so use them in that proportion. Listen more than you speak. Listening is a great gift to people. Check your listening skills. There is a big difference between actively listening, when you engage your mind, focus, body, eyes and empathy, and passive listening when you just use your ears ( if you’re lucky!) Stop what you are doing and give the person your full attention. Listen for what is not being said.
3. Be open and honest in what you say. If you are not, your body language may well give you away. Build trust
4. Have something worthwhile to say. Ask yourself, is it kind, is it fair, does it improve on the silence? On the other hand, don’t bottle it up, if something needs saying. Unsaid things can build a brick at a time into a wall between you and the other person in the relationship.
5. Learn to express yourself well. It is not just what you say, but how you say it. Tone of voice can change the meaning entirely. Speak with emotional impact, as the heart has to hear, before the head can listen.
6. Never assume understanding. Take responsibility to ensure understanding both for yourself and the other person. This is where so many issues arise. ‘Oh, I thought you meant……’
7. If you have an issue with someone, speak to the person directly, especially if it is a sensitive issue. Don’t talk to others first or gossip. Avoid emails, text, and involving more than the people directly concerned.
8. Adjust your style of communication to match the other person. This is a great way to build rapport and show respect. It is not about saying it how you like to say it, but saying it how they need to hear it.
9. Choose your response carefully. Think about the outcome you are looking for. Will what you have to say and the way you intend to say it, gain you that response? Avoid the knee jerk reaction. We often live to regret it, and once the words have left our lips, it is impossible to take them back for editing.
10. Get in the right assertive mindset. Be open minded, respectful and non-judgemental. Leave your ‘baggage’ at the door. Aim to reach an outcome that meets mutual needs.
Communication is a wonderful and very powerful tool that can be used to great effect. It takes time and effort, but the rewards are incredible when you do.