Communication is the primary connection that holds together all the tasks like an active network of instructions, exchanging information back and forth simultaneously all the time, and yet we spent more time trying to fix problems specific to one single entity, one particular task, rather than working on improving the overall communication issues that are actually the source of most of the problems we have within the organization.
We need to ensure we have excellent communication with clarity, and by clarity, it doesn’t always mean clarity with the tasks per se. There are times when we need to take risks not knowing the outcome, which is rational for organizations dealing with experiments and innovation. But having said that, there can always be clear communication about what we already know at a given time, and that requires honesty, transparency, and humility within a team to share what we know and don’t know.
Here are four points to help you improve your communication:
Many times we understand communication skills as only talking. A good talker is most often considered stereotypically a better communicator. People who are good in articulating their thoughts and opinions can be considered as good orators, but not necessarily a good communicator. Empathy begins with understanding other’s emotions and points of view. Sharing facts or asking questions is the easy part, and even AI can do that. But it’s what you understand from what people share including their silence, is what makes you a better communicator, and that is only possible when you are a good listener.
Many times we listen to reply, and not to understand. Some people wait for you to finish your sentence so that they can say what they already have on their minds. Sometimes, it’s even worse, some people don’t even let you finish your sentence. They pick a few words from what you shared, and assume your thoughts, and reply to you based on their assumptions of what you might be thinking. Those kinds of conversations are always bias and one-sided. Once we start developing the habit of listening, we’d be surprised to learn that many times people don’t necessarily want to be right or logical, they just want to be understood.
So often we fight for the last word. When we are able to ask a question that nobody has an answer for, it gives a sense of guilty pleasure that comes from the thought of assuming we are right. It is another stereotypical assumption that when people are silent, it means they don’t have anything to say or that it means they admit they are wrong. That is absolutely not true. Being silent or deciding not to reply, can be a sign of wisdom or empathy, depending on the situation and topic of conversation. The biggest wisdom of communication is knowing when to speak and when to be silent, even to the extent of losing an argument to save the relationship.
How do you react when someone asks you something you don’t know? Or when you get hard feedback? The first tendency is to say something just to save your reputation. The first thing we need to remember is, being silent or admitting you are wrong or you don’t know, aren’t signs of weakness, but evidence of honesty and wisdom. If you are honest to yourself and others, you know the things you don’t know, and you shouldn’t shy away from admitting it. When we are honest to others about how we feel, we lift the burden of ourselves from trying to pretend who we are not, and also save others from having the mistaken perception about us.
Communication is a challenge for everyone irrespective of age, profession or position. Yet having said that, a little bit of empathy and better listening skills, can go a long way in helping us get better with our communication. Words are powerful because emotions are. Words can either build walls or bridges. There are no perfect words or script that can make anyone a good communicator for life. It is when we are willing to listen and understand other’s points of view without being judgmental, we not only become better communicators as a person but start building bridges for healthier relationships.