What is Communication?
There are many forms of communication and if one gets granular in their research, there are actually up to ten distinct types. For the sake of this article, we will cover six high-level types of communication that can be helpful.
Why is communication important, and what is it?
- Clearly telling another person (or group) what you think, feel, and want
- Standing up for your opinions, ideas, beliefs, and needs while respecting those of others
- Hearing what another person is really saying
- Constructively sharing your ideas and feelings
Successfully relating to another person takes INTERPERSONAL SKILLS, which are the back-and-forth exchange and the give-and-take. To encourage this two-way communication, consider “openers” or “softeners”, such as:
- “I think, I feel, I believe” to keep communication relative
- A beginning, a middle, and an end to your point (too often we only offer the middle)
- An understanding of your own communication style and then the style of others
Have you ever wondered why connecting with some people is easier for you than with others?
Maybe you have noticed that you relate better to colleagues who focus on areas such as dependability and stability.
Or maybe you are more comfortable working with those who take a steady, sensible approach than those who fly by the seat of their pants.
Or maybe you relate best to people who are more supportive than competitive.
Introducing Everything DiSC® (For improving communication)
Everything DiSC® is a training and personalized learning experience that can benefit every person, regardless of their position, to build more effective relationships at work. This application teaches participants to understand themselves and others while learning to appreciate the different priorities, preferences, and values each person brings to the table. With personalized insights and actionable strategies, participants learn how to adapt to the styles of others, ultimately improving engagement, collaboration, and the overall quality of the workplace.
That is what communication is all about!
To learn more about Everything DiSC® read this article.
Asking Questions to Encourage Communication
Everything gets easier with questions. Questions “force” us to listen, and require us to respond. Using the following types of questions, and generally avoiding “yes” or “no” questions will make us much better communicators.
Open-ended questions with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “how,” or “why” lead to answers that people need to think about generating responses that go beyond “yes” and “no”.
Follow up questions:
- What makes you say that?
- Why do you think that?
- Can you tell me more about that?
Multiple choice questions:
- Do you prefer mornings or afternoons? (versus what time do you prefer?)
- Would you like to travel to Europe or Asia? (versus where would you like to travel to?)
- Do you favour dark or light colours? (versus what colour do you like best?)
More than half of our communication is non-verbal, according to Toastmasters International. When you speak, you are being judged based on what people see, as well as what they hear. Your body speaks by your appearance, your manner, and your physical behaviour. Your body can be an effective tool for adding emphasis and clarity to your words. It is also your most powerful instrument for convincing others of your sincerity, earnestness, and enthusiasm.
However, if your physical actions are distracting or suggest meanings that don’t agree with your verbal message, your body can defeat your words. Whether your purpose is to inform, persuade, entertain, motivate, or inspire, your body and the personality you project must be appropriate to what you say.
So let us say you are having a formal conversation with someone. What might be some principles you should follow in terms of body language?
- Relaxed and confident
- Eye contact
- Lean in
- Still hands, no pen wagging or tapping
- Nod (slowly) while listening in agreement
“Actions Speak Louder than Words”
Listening is an Important Part of Good Communication
Definition of listening “is to give attention to a sound or action. When listening, one is hearing what others are saying, and trying to understand what it means”.
It’s no secret we tune out those who we spend the most time with. A study by Queen’s University found we can tune out a familiar voice, and are less likely to do so with someone we don’t speak with as often.
How can you demonstrate listening techniques?
- Summarize what has been said, or paraphrase, in your own words
- Use acknowledging statements such as “I see”, “Oh really”, “I’d like to hear more”, “I hear you saying…”
- Non-verbal communication, including any indication of judgement
- Ask open-ended clarifying questions to ensure a full understanding of what is being said
- Never dictate, even if asked, a response but rather guide or offer potential solutions
Most importantly, discipline yourself not to drift off and think of:
- What you will say next or
- Changing the topic, in your mind, because you are distracted by something
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”- George Bernard Shaw
What happens when a conversation gets emotional?
We avoid it because we may handle the situation poorly. Why? Because our mind fills with “automatic responses” and these are often negative. That is what conflict does to us; we assume it will be negative. Conflict is actually good, as long as it is productive. We can train ourselves to keep these automatic thoughts positive by thinking about the situation with empathy and understanding, and giving someone the benefit of the doubt. That thought process shapes and frames our response.
To learn more about productive conflict, click here.
What About Image?
There is an adage that says one never gets a second chance to make a first impression, and that is quite true. How you present yourself is how you are perceived and whether business or casual, a coordinated look, pressed outfit, appropriate style, well put together, and attention to detail when it comes to hair and nails do make for a positive first impression.
Our image can suggest our personality – extrovert or introvert. Who is more approachable? Most would say the extrovert, and in part that is also due to body language, eye contact, and possibly a quicker smile.
Image is body language as much as appearance. Training ourselves to look inviting and open through posture, gestures, body movement, facial expression, and very importantly, eye contact is how our body “speaks”.
Is Written Also Communication?
According to Grant Cardone, author of Sell or Be Sold, “never sell with words, write it down”. He claims people will forget what you say, but they will not forget if they have something to read. Often when we read something, we feel the information is more credible than if we only hear it. There can no gossip or miscommunication if it is read.
Written communication has never been more popular with today’s strong social media trends, including images that are a form of visual communication. Visual communication really does compliment every other form of communication.
Regardless of the reason to communicate, doing so effectively is an asset for our relationships, our experiences, our sense of well-being and accomplishment, and a plethora of other reasons. Understand your own style, including strengths and opportunity areas, and you have made a good stride forward in effectiveness.