Here’s another “lesson” I have learned along the way. So, from me, to you…
Sadly, some of us define communication as “telling people!” We are most comfortable with this style, it’s easy, and so it happens much of the time in the work world. I say sadly because in this one-sided delivery, we totally miss the give and take of the interaction. We may also miss some key information. And we certainly miss the opportunity to build relationships with members of our team.
Simply passing out information isn’t good enough. Often we don’t get the results we expect – so, something is not working. It might not be the teacher’s fault in this case. It just might be our communication skills. Does any of the following touch a nerve?
- “I told her what to do, but she never did it – now the deadline has passed.”
- “He should be able to figure that out on his own.”
- “She’s the teacher and should know how to do this.”
- “He has worked for me for a long while – he should know what I mean.”
I believe communication to be a process in human relations in which information and understanding is exchanged between two people. It is a two-way street, and there is a back and forth, especially if we want our team to “do” something with the information we send, or to “act” on the direction we give. How do we know that they heard or read and, most importantly, understood our message unless we provide an environment in which we listen, clarify, and respond to one another?
It goes back to listening! The fact that we have two ears and one mouth should tell us something about the importance of listening. Once we have communicated our message, we listen – fully, without interruption. We don’t assume anything – we listen and wait for the other person to finish before drawing conclusions. We ask relevant and clarifying questions, and then listen. We clarify any misunderstandings and listen as the other person rephrases what we just said. We listen for the main ideas, and don’t get lost in details or other distractions.
We listen in order to understand the other person’s understanding, to hear the questions, to provide guidance, and to move the process forward.
And when we focus on, and concentrate on our listening – in every interaction – our skills will improve and we will be communicating more effectively! And we’ll know – because our messages will be received and acted upon; the projects will be completed as we expected; the report written and delivered to our standards.
The added bonus? People will enjoy working for, and with us! A win-win situation!