Relationships with in-laws can be challenging, but I am lucky to be blessed with in-laws who I like very much. Early on in my marriage, I called my mother-in-law and had an entire conversation before I realized that each of us was talking about different things. I was awestruck that two people could engage in complementary dialogue related to two entirely different topics during a single conversation.
Healthy relationships are grounded in communication, and we communicate with others all the time, whether we mean to or not. People can speak volumes without even opening their mouths. Our actions, our body language and mannerisms, the way we dress or present ourselves—everything about us makes a statement about who we are. The messages we send (purposely or otherwise) can have a significant impact on the people around us, and nowhere is it more obvious than when we’re at work. When you arrive to work for the day, the way you walk in, how you are dressed, the look on your face, and the tone of your voice are all going to affect your co-workers and your workday in some way. Here are three tips to help you elevate your communication abilities and get your messages across as intended.
One significant barrier to effective communication is that people often listen to respond instead of listening to understand. A tool called “reflective listening” can be used to overcome this tendency. Listening reflectively means that you tell someone what you heard them say so they can hear the message that you received. Unfortunately, there is a problem with this technique: some people don’t like having their message repeated back to them. A helpful hint would be to ask if it is okay for you to use this tool. Before you begin, you might ask, “Would you mind if I tell you what I heard so I can make sure that I understood you correctly?” Being sensitive to your own and others’ needs will enhance the quality of your communication and help to ensure that each person has a positive and productive experience during the conversation.
Open Healthy Dialogue
In relationships—even those that are damaged or strained—the way people talk to each other is a signal that points to where the relationship stands. In a professional setting, and no matter how well or poorly we get on with our co-workers, the day moves ahead and the work must be done. Interpersonal strain is no excuse for ineffective communication. We are often thrust into situations where we need to communicate with people who we may not get along with (or even like), but raising our voices in the workplace is both unprofessional and unrewarding. Likewise, petulant silence gets us nowhere and can be deafening, both to the parties involved and to innocent bystanders in the workplace. At work, communication is a constant demand that must be met no matter what. If you’re struggling to communicate with someone at work, you should consider seeking outside support. Rather than going it alone and feeding into a negative situation that could easily escalate, you may need to seek assistance from a supervisor or higher-up. You may also want to try role-playing a difficult conversation with someone you trust. This will allow you to gauge the other party’s likely response and refine your message before having the real conversation.
Choose the Right Format
Business communication comes in many forms, and not all of them are ideal. Methods of communication that aren’t face to face or over the phone—such as email, instant (or direct) messaging, and texts—can be especially problematic. Written messages can easily be misconstrued or lost in translation, even when we’re communicating with people we know well or have worked with closely for a long time. Because we can’t see their facial expressions, read their body language, or hear their tone of voice, the potential for misinterpretation, misunderstandings, and miscommunication is huge. A simple solution to this type of communication failure is to talk to the person on the phone or face to face whenever possible—and when it isn’t possible, ask them to clarify their meaning or use the “reflective listening” technique described earlier.
Communicating effectively can be difficult and a lot of hard work, but it’s essential that we get it right. Through self-development, we can improve the way we communicate and how our messages are received. By watching our tone and body language, choosing our words wisely and listening carefully, and selecting the appropriate medium for our message, we can be much better prepared to send our intended messages clearly and directly, which will improve our experience at work, our relationships with others, and the results we achieve for the business.
Author Bio: Di Snarr
Di joined the CMOE team in 2016 and supports the business as a Shipping and Production Specialist. Di plays a critical role in the production, assembly, and shipment of all products and materials for client workshops and events. She devotes her time and talents to ensuring the accuracy and professional quality of every order she fulfills for our clients. Di is also a very versatile team player, and offers support in various other aspects of the business.