Have you ever given directions to an employee or co-worker and then been surprised to find that the task wasn’t done correctly?
Have you had a discussion in which you were very clear and yet found that the other person didn’t hear what you really said?
Communication is the heart of leadership, building relationships and customer service. It’s amazing that something that seems so simple on the surface can go wrong so easily.
Someone sends a message to another person and communication happens when the message that is sent is the same as the message that is received.
However, we know from painful experience that the process is not as simple as it seems. Successful communication requires trust; itis a shared experience where each person has his or her own expectations and intentions, which can get in the way of the message getting through.
How many of these barriers to successful communication have you experienced?
- People don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say. Sometimes they don’t know what they mean to say.
- People are not always in touch with their feelings. Thoughts and feelings can be hard to put into words.
- The same words have different meanings to different people. Ask five people to define leadership and you will get five very different answers.
- Sometimes we hear what we want, or what we expect, to hear.
- We’re often so busy thinking about what we’re going to say next that we don’t really listen accurately.
- We allow distractions such as checking our phones, listening to two conversations at once and continuing with work when someone is talking.
- We believe that if we are talking, others are listening and because we say it, others understand.
Both the sender and the receiver have an obligation to make sure that the message is clear and understood.
So what can you do to knock down some of these barriers?
- Decide to communicate more effectively.
- Listen with your full attention. Remove distractions and allow the person to speak without interrupting.
- When delivering your message, be careful about information overload. Allow pauses for the other person to ask questions or just to process what you’ve said so far.
- Organize your message, use clear language and summarize regularly.
- Ask open questions to make sure you understand. Open questions generally start with ‘who, what, when, where, how’.
- When delegating or giving directions to an employee, don’t assume that because they don’t ask any questions that they understand or agree to take responsibility. Ask an open question, such as “What resources will you need to get started?” or “ Who will you need to help you?”
- Paraphrase to make sure you really understand what the other person is saying. A paraphrase is giving back what you heard in your own words.
Communicating successfully is an art, not a science. Poor communication can cause low profits, poor problem solving, damaged relationships, reduced safety and a breakdown in customer service. Knocking down communication barriers increases our sense of satisfaction, enhances our leadership and builds strong relationships.