Polish Your Communication Style
The phrase “you are the message” is as accurate today as the day it was written. Everything you do or say conveys some type of communication message. Many of my business customers note that good communication skills really stand out in today’s cluttered business day. Managers almost always list good communication skills as a “required skill” on job requisitions, screen for them during a job interview, and definitely rely on them in the day-to-day operations of running the business.
Check your own communication style against those that I have listed here to ensure that you are doing all you can to send and receive the message as it was intended. Not, by the way, as easy as it sounds.
1. Verbal and non-verbal communications are equal partners. These two elements combine to form the message you are sending. Research shows that over half of all human communication takes place on a nonverbal level. In fact, when your words and your actions (nonverbal) are not in sync, the nonverbal message is believed over the words you are saying almost 100% of the time! That is a very compelling reason to say what you mean and mean what you say.
2. Body language matters. I’m sure that you have heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words”. We all use our bodies when we speak. Body movement, facial expressions, eye contact, posture all combine to support the words you are speaking or the thoughts you are thinking. Combined, these body movements add greatly to the spoken word. Just imagine speaking with someone who does not move at all during the conversation. We would quickly tire of this type of conversation. In fact, most would find it so boring that we would completely tune out the speaker and the message. Think about the last time you were in the audience and had to endure a dull speaker. Question is how quickly did you check out mentally?
3. Your voice is a tool. Your voice is a tool that you can use to improve the delivery of your message. Your rate of speaking is one very important element. Speaking too slow or too fast can detract from the message as can the volume of your voice. If a listener has to strain to hear you, they may feel they are working too hard and simply tune you out. Conversely, it you speak too loud it hurts the eardrums of the listener. They instinctively step away from you to lessen or reduce the uncomfortable feeling of hearing you speak. Voice pitch is another important element that can be controlled so that it is not too high or too low.
4. Words are critical to good conversation. Check the way you are using language to communicate your message. Are the words understood by the listener? Have you selected clear, easy to understand words that the listener can connect to? Remember, acronyms, industry jargon, slang or profanity may not be the best choice to reach your listener. Just because you are OK with such words does not mean that you should assume your listener is. Watch them for body language feedback, check for understanding and if necessary, adjust your word selections for more effective communication.
5. Questions are a good communication aid. If you think the message you are sending is not being received or fully understood, ask clarifying questions to ensure understanding. Clarifying questions often add needed information to the conversation. Be sure to also pay attention to the nonverbal signals you are getting from your listener. Check your own understanding of messages being returned to you to be sure that you have also heard the message correctly. If the listener feels that they do understand but you are still not sure, you can ask the listener to repeat back what they heard you say. This will give you the chance to check that you have successfully communicated your message. While not every conversation will need this level of checking, questions are a good tool to use when needed.
6. Don’t act on assumptions. This one element has cause many a communication breakdown, both in business and personal conversations. The familiar “I didn’t know that was what you meant!” has an all too familiar ring to it. Don’t fall victim to assuming that your message is getting across in the way you intended. Be willing to check with the listener to ensure understanding and be prepared to restate something in such a way that they will “get” the message. No negativity or annoyance called for here, just a willingness to take an extra step to ensure accurate understanding. Your listener will be thankful for the extra effort.
7. Attend to your attitude. Attitude shows. If you enter into a conversation with the right attitude, one of partnership with the person you are speaking to, it will make the communication clearer and much less work. Enter the conversation with impatience, lack of respect for the other person and that message is conveyed – before a word is spoken.
8. Give and get respect when in communication. This means being willing to hear the other person’s response to your message as well as expecting the same from them in conversation. We have all been a part of a conversation in which neither side hears the other. Both parties are so intent on getting their message to the other person that they don’t allow any time for the other person to speak. If they are able to get a word in, the other person doesn’t listen to what is being said. The end result is a one way conversation that accomplishes nothing.
9. Choose the mode of communication with the receiver in mind. Sometimes it is best to choose a verbal message, other times a written message. Often one method of communicating is not sufficient. It may be best to select more than one way of communicating your message to ensure that it is heard and understood. Perhaps a phone call followed up with an email may be the best way to go. Other times, it may be best to deliver your message in person followed up by a letter. Choose wisely about making the right choice for the situation not simply the choice that you are most comfortable with.
10 Seek feedback from others. Don’t be shy about asking those that you converse with on a regular basis if they can offer suggestions for you to improve your communication skills. Often insights from others are just the thing needed to highlight an area that you may want or need to improve on. Remember, we all have blind spots!
Don’t lose sight of the value of being a great communicator. It’s a skill that can translate to better pay, better relationships and being a better manager. It’s a skill that can propel you forward on the job and in your personal life.
Trignano Coaching & Consulting is focused on helping individuals and teams improve their communication style both personally and professionally. We work with clients looking to improve their skills as a leader and manager. A coach with over 23 years of experience in a corporate environment, Trignano offers client support in training and team facilitation. As a distributor for the DiSC assessment suite of products, Linda Trignano’s firm is focused on helping companies more effectively handle their people related needs by working collaboratively with clients to find solutions that work for everyone. She is able to quickly and cost effectively implement change that improves productivity. Linda helps individuals, teams and corporations move through difficult transitions. You can reach us at http://www.trignanoconsulting.com or by calling 973-722-9961.