How To: Effective Communication In The Workplace
Almost every job description for a manager includes some variation of "must be an effective communicator" as part of the required skills. The problem is this: if you poll (as I often do in my workshops) what people define as "effective communication," you will get a lot of different definitions. Therefore, you must define what effective communication means for that particular role.
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 the receiver take an action.
How each individual determines what is effective communication begins with how they are hardwired to communicate, and that originates within your synaptic connections, which 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: whichever way you are "hardwired" is how you will determine what is considered normal, effective and therefore, the RIGHT WAY of communicating, and this typically results in you believing that anyone who does it the opposite way is doing it the WRONG WAY!
It is also important to point out that how we define effective communication also incorporates how we were taught to communicate, our values, experience, etc. That being said, it is important to note that the human brain was built to work on autopilot or rather, on the sub-conscious level. This means that if you are not consciously making an effort to adjust your "natural" communication style, you will default to the way you are hardwired.
Since the above is a scientific fact regarding how each of us defines "effective communication," and since we all want to be effective in our communication, and since we can only really exercise control over what WE say, then we must deliver our message in a manner that is considered "normal" communication to the receiver.
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 an 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 and rude (in addition to some other words I can't write in this post.)
Now let's reverse the situation: you're an introvert, and you 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. I wish I could have been there with you. I've been meaning to go for years. Anyway, I was looking for the production report yesterday, when Ellen 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," I couldn't find them. Do you know where they are?
Somewhere right after "how are you today?" you lost the introvert's attention. What you intended to be a friendly and informative email became an intrusion on the introvert's time, which you are now wasting (which, to them, may be perceived as extremely inconsiderate, disrespectful and rude.) They probably never finished reading your email to get to the part when you finally asked them where the report is.
In both cases, neither of you communicated effectively.
Here is a simple and effective process:
- Learn more about what your natural communication style is.
- Learn the natural communication styles 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 understand that these styles can both work effectively.
- Slightly adjust your communication style to accommodate their's when you communicate with them.
By understanding and applying this methodology, you will be amazed at how much more effective your communication will become. As a result, you WILL achieve greater results.