Despite having so many different ways to communicate we still have trouble communicating with our staff. Misunderstandings cause many of the conflicts in the workplace and this is because we don’t communicate effectively.
In this article we share some of the communication secrets that will make yours and your colleagues’ job easier.
1. What you say may not be what they understand
Scientists have estimated that every second there is approximately 2 million bits of information being received by our bodies through our five senses. If we were to focus on this amount of input we would go mad. Researchers have therefore come to the conclusion that we can only pay attention to or store in our short term memory between five and nine pieces of information. To do this our brain deletes, distorts or generalises information.
The problem comes when the five or so things we our focusing on is different to the person who is receiving information from us. This can affect the interpretation each of us places on the words we use or receive during our communication. If you ask a group of people to tell you what a word (e.g. conflict) means to them, they are likely to give you a range of different answers depending upon their own interpretation. In the context of your work this often causes misunderstanding.
As a manager we need to take responsibility for the message getting through in the way it was intended. This means checking for understanding and we don’t mean asking people, ‘Do you understand?’ as most employees will say, ‘Yes’ whether they did nor not! Instead ask open questions like, ‘What did you understand from what I just said?’ or ‘Tell me what you are going to do first’.
Always remember ‘The effectiveness of our communication is in the response we get’.
2. Stop what you are doing and REALLY listen
Stephen Covey once said that there different levels of listening and of these levels, many of us are guilty of selective listening instead of active listening. As you can guess this means that we tend to select only what is interesting to us in a conversation. This often happens when we are still doing another activity such as looking at our e-mails or thinking of something else.
The only way we can really pay attention and undertake active listening, is to stop what we were doing or thinking and give our whole focus to what is being said and not said (through tone of voice or body language indicators). One technique is to use some of the last words or themes said by the other person in our response. This demonstrates to the other person that we were listening and that you are validating what they said. It also encourages you to really concentrate on what they are attempting to communicate.
3. Ask your colleagues how they prefer to receive communication
In the same way that we should adapt our management and leadership style to the person in front of us and the situation, we should aim our communicate in a way that suits them. Whilst this not always practical, it will help to improve the effectiveness of your message. For example some employees prefer to receive delegation in a detailed way. Others will only want a few broad concepts and be left to figure out the rest. Of course the best way to find out which way suits them is to ask!
Improving the effectiveness of our communication can significantly improve productivity in our teams. Investing time and effort to do it properly will reduce misunderstanding and conflict, leaving more time in the long run to get on with the job.
Senior Management Trainer & Consultant at MTD Training