Communicate communicate communicate

One of the most important skills we need in a world of information overload is good communication. The average person is bombarded with so much information that crucial bits can go ignored. How often have you sent an email with important information only for it to go unhindered because it was hidden beneath so many paragraphs of noise.

Are you speaking or are you making noise?

Many projects have failed simply because of poor communication among team members. I have worked with people who had a reputation for hoarding information. For them, being gate keepers of crucial knowledge was the only way they could assert their power. They did not realise their actions were harming the project. They were simply trying to stay relevant to the team.

Unfortunately, communication is one of those skills that is not being taught in schools. Job seekers mention it as a key skill in their CV but fail to show their communication skills during an interview. It gets worse when information is sent via email. Typed text comes without relevant cues such as facial expressions that help to explain the nature of a message. This often leaves it to the interpreter’s judgment to determine if your “suggestion for a meeting date” is a request, an order or an FYI.

Feels great to be understood

Communication is very important for maintaining your productivity at work. It is vital for any team and without it any relationship is doomed to suffer. The good thing about communication skills is you can improve them no matter how bad you think you are. Different people will require different assistance with their communication skills. Some people write terrible emails, others are not so good at expressing themselves when they have to give a speech.

You will have to figure out what aspect of your communication skills you need to work on. I will give you an example. One area of communication I struggled with is listening to understand instead or listening to respond. Thankfully, this was brought to my attention early in my career. People said they felt I responded too fast and didn’t take enough time to understand what they had said. I had to practice how to stay silent when someone else was talking, give them my full attention and resist the urge to say something until I was certain they were done speaking. One trick I learnt was to stroke my beard when I started to feel someone had been talking far too long. It served as a reminder to be patient and keep listening. According to a friend, it also made me look like I was seriously thinking about what they said.

Listen to understand, not to reply

The result is I soon learnt to pay attention to the message, analyse it carefully and think about the speaker’s point of view before crafting my response. Just the simple act of understanding before responding improved my communication skill.

What aspects of communication do you struggle with? Have you thought of the various ways you could improve your communication skills? If you don’t know what areas your communication needs to improve ask your friends and co-workers. Are there any tips you’d like to share that have helped you communicate more effectively? Please leave a comment below.

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