What Is Communication?
November 15, 2011 3 Comments
We’ve been communicating all of our lives – so with that much practice we should be pretty good at it. But the reality is we all struggle with our communication skills – especially at work.
For example, what do the following situations have in common?
- Having an implementation team arrive for an installation at the wrong address.
- Sales not ensuring Product Development know your most profitable client has an emerging ‘must have’ need.
- Sending your sales & product specialists out to a prospect – to find they’re not in their office.
- Building a wall in the wrong place when the architect changed the plans two weeks ago.
The common element is that these examples are all very expensive – but easy-to-make oversights, and given the right tools and training support they are also easily avoidable.
Business communication is critical to being succesful. It’s important everywhere; in Customer Service, Product Development, Graphic Design in large international corporations and small entrepreneurial enterprises.
But we struggle with everyday communication as well as conflict and conflict resolution.
Most of the time we struggle because we don’t see communication skills as a two-way street that involve many goals and needs.
It’s not our fault we’ve learned bad habits over the years. We’ve become so good at addressing our needs that many of us don’t consider the perspective, needs, goals, timelines or contribution of others.
That’s the answer when we ask ‘What is communication?’ In a nutshell, effective communication includes learning how to:
- Provide relevant information:
- You need /want people to know
- Your listener needs / wants to know
- Listen without judging the information you ‘think’ you are hearing
- Ask questions
- See questions as empowerment – not weakness
Consider the power of seeing a situation through someone else’s eyes. Even the act of trying will bring you clarity and a perspective you likely would not have otherwise experienced.
Communication success depends on your personal and your environments’ definition of communication.
Personal Definition of Communication
One of the first things that’s required for successful communication is to understand what definitions you are working with. Is it:
- Getting our own way?
- Avoiding conflict?
- Looking professional and in control?
- Being open and listening to others?
- Not daydreaming – or worse… falling asleep?
- Something else?
Your Environments’ Definition of Communication
Your environment may be a person or a place. Therefore, it may be your co-worker, your team or your company. It may also be a store clerk or each member of your family.
Your personal and environmental definitions will be rooted in your values – and the values you’ve learned to use (workplace values for example). Therefore they may support each other (harmony), or they may be in conflict (opposite) to each other.
Communication success depends on your personal and environmental filters
Filters may be a bit more challenging because it’s likely we aren’t even be aware of them. For example:
- Life experiences & Education
- Vocabulary (general, sophisticated, ghetto)
- Fears / Defensiveness / Insecurities
- Work / family pressures
- What if you didn’t recognize a client at a conference?
- What if your Smartphone is turned off and you miss an important call?
- What if your SPAM filter blocked an email message?
- What if someone didn’t include you in a distribution list – on purpose or by mistake?
In addition, your audience is going to have the same types of Personal and Environmental filters as you do – and let’s face it – if you can’t define all of your filters you won’t be able to define theirs. In almost every case you’re going to have to guess – at least at some of them unless you incorporate some communication practices like mindfulness communication.
WOW! No wonder we struggle.
Are There Other Concerns?
I’d like to point out two other concerns of effective communication.
- The first is the process we all go through to encode our message and decode what we hear back.
- The second is when you are communicating across generations and / or cultures.
I’ve also discussed this in my blog post called Effective Communication. To understand the severity on each of these all we have to do is consider the game of broken telephone you may have played as children. I can pretty much guarantee – in any communication some of your meaning will be lost AND changed by the listener.
There is a way through this and the benefits of your investment are substantial.
There are many easy techniques you and your team (or family), can adopt to enhance your communication.
Mindfulness communication has at its core the practice of helping people identify what they are needing and to explore and listen in an active, non-judging way of what your audience needs.
The secret is to have a safe space and an agreement with one or more persons that will allow you all to listen and be open to putting yourself in the other person’s shoes – without risk or prejudice.
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