Intro to Effective Communication
05 JUNE 2018
written by Mike
Effective communication is a bedrock of all relationships – inside and outside of business. An idea isn’t worth much if it’s not communicated with others, making the skill highly valuable.
After working in many different jobs, as well as running my own business, I noticed a lot of patterns when it comes to relationships between people. It may be co-workers, managers, other business owners – it’s clear to see when you meet someone who is right in communication and speaking, and who isn’t.
Like any other skill, communication needs practice and studying. Reading books, watching YouTube videos or listening to audiobooks will help but getting in front of people and talking is where the training takes place.
For that, there are groups such as Toastmaster, where the safe environment helps to hone the skill and allows for critical feedback. I’ve been attending one, and it’s a perfect club to get out of the comfort zone and learn valuable skills!
Even if you work mostly from home (like I do now) communication is vital; it may be even more as with ‘face to face’ meetings you also have the whole body language to help you convey the message. It’s hard to do that as well on email or conference call.
In my opinion, first and last impressions count the most. The first impression rule is well known, most of us jump to conclusions quickly and judge other before we even speak to them. Making a good first impressions goes a long way.
However, I also think that last impressions are as important as first.
How many times did you attend an awesome event, music gig, party to have the end spoil it somehow?
It is illogical – why would just the small part of the experience ruin the whole thing? But when the spoiling bit is at the end – it usually leaves us with the bad taste.
Same with impressions. You can meet an amazing person and have an interesting conversation, but if the persons do something at the end that creates a dissonance with your beliefs, it can change the whole perception.
Some people are naturals; they make friends quickly, they are easy to talk to, they are extroverts. Others are not. However, the lucky thing is that the skills of effective communication are just that – a skill. And any skill can be learned and polished when you put in enough work and practice.
In this short article, I won’t be sharing lessons from the book or a course. Instead, I will share you a few things that in my opinion you should do and shouldn’t do in social situations.
All of that is from experience, from situations I observed and decided to learn from.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Lunch and table manners.
When I worked at a big company, we often had team meetings over lunch. It wasn’t just meetings, sometimes we went out to celebrate the end of the project and had a lovely meal in local pubs. One of our colleagues would quite often answer his phone at the table and talk loudly, to his friend of family members. We were an international collective so it didn’t help that he spoke in his native language and no one could understand anything, therefore making the whole ordeal even more awkward.
Even though I worked in places without a strict dress code, some people would take it to the extreme. Casual still means taking care of your hygiene and basic grooming.
Gossiping is the worst you can do at work. Unfortunately, it is the most straightforward tool to make friends – a common enemy always helps. However, you shouldn’t talk about others in a way you wouldn’t want others to talk about you.
Having a co-worker who is always negative about everything is not an example of effective communication. Complaining just for the sake of it never helps.
Casual environments are great as not everyone likes to wear a suit to work. However swearing needs to be taken with caution, it may be ok to do that around good mates from work, but when clients are around, it’s best not to risk it.
Unless asked, there is no need to diverge into personal life and problems, especially at work. Of course the longer you spent at the place of work, the more you became like a family, and you can share with others. However, when you just started, try to keep it professional.
WHAT TO DO
Greet everyone with a smile.
It helps, especially in the morning. Even if you don’t see a person, like on a conference call – having a positive tonality in your voice will make the communication so much easier.
Whenever possible, offer help. Not a piece of advice or solution but help, more than often just the offer will be appreciated.
Dress to impress is the saying. I would add to that – dress in what makes you feel good and look good. Most people are quick to judge, especially with their eyes.
Of course, we all want to move past that, but having a good style does not hurt.
If someone offers you help, advice or feedback – thank them. You may not agree or use the information, but be thankful for the effort rather than criticise them.
Understand body language.
Like I said before, some people are natural at this, others (like me) aren’t. However, we are lucky to live in times where we have access to limitless information – read books, watch courses, study effective communicators.
Learn how to use your body to your advantage and get comfortable with body language.
Don’t argue in hallways.
Hallways are usually big and resonant. If you have a personal matter to resolve or a conflict brewing, there is no need to put it on display. Especially in a professional environment.
Have a discussion in the office or isolate room, somewhere where others can’t hear you – otherwise you will start the gossip trend.
Learn basic psychology, biases and fallacies.
People often give in to assumptions, jump to conclusions and are quick to judge.
I am guilty of it as much as anybody else. In my opinion, learning about the mind, the psychology and faults in our thinking help to develop logical thinking and effective communication. It’s easy to go into a defensive mode when you don’t agree with someone, rather than to listen, by studying the triggers and heuretics of the mind we can quickly make the communications better.
The presented arguments are just tip of the iceberg. The call to action is to learn more, observe the patterns and develop the skill of communication. It’s so easy to coast on what we already know – but it’s only by challenging our ideas, habits and understandings we can genuinely progress and make the relationships with others more meaningful.
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