Happy Effective Communications Month! June has been deemed the month of improving our interpersonal skills, and with the amount of communicating we do in today’s business climate, proper articulation holds more weight than ever before. Our ability to explicitly communicate is something that is profoundly and uniquely human. (There are very few dogs who worry about which emoji to pick or if that “k” text means something.) People throughout time have always been sending messages; however, we have come a long way from carving in caves and sending homing pigeons to today’s instant video footage. The timeline below shows how much communication has evolved (and continues to do so).
The present capabilities are driving us to speak more efficiently and more frequently, and with this increased communication comes increased miscommunication.
Beyond the elevated information load, the channels through which socializing is taking place have been drastically altered. Individuals have been forced to replace in person meetings and social activities with emails and video conferences. Previously, nonverbal communication was said to be over 70% of what was “heard” (Mehrabian, Albert)*. With the online climate, we have lost the majority of those unsaid details. An email, unfortunately, does not have the body language to emphasize the important points within a meeting. The question prevails: how do we adapt to making sure we are communicating not only efficiently but also effectively?
The experts say improving your communication skills is as simple as taking a moment to reflect on the following tenets of expressing yourself eloquently.
Effective communication is not purely exchanging information correctly. Effective communication requires spending time actively listening and gaging the meaning of the message.
2. Know your audience.
This means understanding the other party’s intentions, as well as taking their emotions and motivations into account.
3. Be aware of nonverbal communication.
Effective communication means watching others to see what they may not be saying out loud. For example, if someone spends an entire meeting drumming their leg under the table, they may have had one more cup of coffee than they should have, or they might not have the patience to listen at the moment. Also, it is equally important to be conscious of the signals you may be sending back without even realizing it.
4. Stay focused on the topic at hand.
It may be tempting to bring up your coworker’s past mistakes during a discussion or venture off on a tangent but do your best to stick to the present material.
5. Be confident in yourself.
There’s a reason you believe in what you do. Take a breath and assert your views.
6. Be willing to compromise.
On the other hand, you may not always be 100% right. Look to see if both you and the other party can give a little to find that happy middle ground. If not, consider how compromising now may be a good investment for the future of the relationship.
7. Be willing to apologize when needed.
Furthermore, if you do make a mistake, candid apologies are often more remembered than the mess created.
8. Know when it is not a good time for you to communicate.
Stress gets the best of all of us at times, but if your emotions are ruling your decisions, it is okay to take a break.
Following these tenets builds a positive work climate that allows coworkers to forge strong relationships based off that foundational skill. Speaking coherently is vital in creating a team. A well-functioning team will push each other, encourage each other, and far outperform their solo counterparts time and time again. Teams turn challenges into success whereas individuals who feel like a number will give up much more quickly.
So, how does a company ensure effective communication and build that desired high performing team? Softrams, as a quickly growing company, is paving a clear path to prioritizing communication. There needs to be enough easily accessible pathways to connect coworkers – beyond email. For instance, platforms such as Slack serve as the present-day water cooler. While we may not be gathering around in person to show photos of our flowerbeds and children’s graduations, ideas between projects are flying through the different channels. With a top-down approach loosening the power hierarchy, anyone with a good idea can feel comfortable not only to express it, but to act on it. From there, the channels need to be in place to go public. Adding anonymous HR surveys sets a space for honest feedback and weekly learning brown bag surveys for employees continues to improve people’s comfortability.
I have outlined eight steps above that can be used a starting point. In reality, there is no magic formula to ensure effective communications that ultimately build a high-functioning team. It will vary from person to person and company to company. So, go out there and start communicating! Send your coworker a message; put out feelers to see how everyone is doing, what new ideas might be bouncing around. With increased quality collaboration, good things are bound to come your way. Utilize June as Effective Communications Month to break out of your comfort zone and speak to someone who you have not spoken to before. Celebrate this month to forge new connections and build new bonds!
*Source: Nonverbal Communication. By Albert Mehrabian. Aldine-Atherton, 1977.