Communication in the Workplace
Communication is a two-way street. This old proverb rings true, but there are two ways to read it. The first reading is the obvious one: that communication is a dialogue, with both parties participating. True (usually)! But the second reading is a little more subtle: Even one-way communication is a two-way street, in the sense that receiving/understanding is just as important as delivering/communicating. In other words, I might be 100% sure I communicated something to my employees, but if they did not understand–for whatever reason–that communication failed. Like in baseball, both pitcher and catcher have to be engaged.
While poor communication is not necessarily the source of all conflict, it frequently plays a dominant role. When resolving conflicts, a smart first step is evaluating the communication involved. Generally, people have good intentions, but inadvertent communication missteps result in misunderstandings.
More Is More
When in doubt, over-communicate. There’s an advantage to saying the same thing a few different ways. Why? For one thing, there are many nuances to each word we choose, so rephrasing something is likely to help clarify your points. Also, each of us is tuned in to different things: different words, delivery systems, body language and more. Build a work culture in which reiteration, dialogue and questions are respected and valued.
Also, human nature often suspects the worst. When we get no positive communication, it’s easy to believe that negative words are right around the corner.
Written Communication Has Pros and Cons
Benefits of written communication include: You can take the time to craft your words carefully and thoughtfully, and even get others’ opinion on them. The written word persists, so it can be referred to over and over again. It enables mass communication to large groups, and over the course of time.
However, human communication relies on words, body language and tone of voice. Written communication harnesses only one out of three of these factors, so it’s bound to come up short in certain circumstances. Most experts agree that conflict should take place in face-to-face, verbal communication.
The Art of Listening
Listening is an essential part of that proverbial two-way street. While we know we should truly listen, it’s easy to get caught up in our own experience, and put our attention on our own response. Are you listening, or are you just waiting to talk? Genuine listening takes conscious effort to not dwell on our own experience, but to really open up to the other person’s experience.
Have an Objective
When undertaking communication, get clear on your objective. Are you strictly relaying information? Are you trying to solve a problem? Do you intend to build rapport and community? Know your objective, and evaluate whether you’re on track to achieving it. Effective communication takes conscious effort, so perfecting the art is worth your time and effort.
Communication Matters in Our Collaborative World
As companies grow and become more complex, and as team-oriented activities are increasingly important in our connected, high-tech world, effective communication is more essential than ever.