If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say a variation of “communication is key!” I'd retire. Ten years ago.
Communication is one of those motherhood issues: everyone is for it and we all profess to want more yet our behavior doesn't always support that. We now have more tools to communicate with each other than ever before, and yet, much like Nate Silver warns we often just create more noise.
Human Resources has an especially important need to communicate well given our entire day is spent interacting with and influencing others. Yet we too struggle.
We can do better
There are however some simple steps we can take to improve communication
- Be live – its tempting to txt, tweet or email people we want to reach. Tempting but wrong. Be live as much as you can. Speak face to face when possible, and learn to use a phone a lot more than you do. Yes, go old school and use the phone. There's power in actually hearing each other's voices. Cut through the noise in people's lives by showing up at their office door, or reaching out with a phone call. Just remember: have a purpose, be succinct and know when to end the call or leave their space. Be smart
- Listen – especially in Western cultures we're predisposed to formulate responses and positions internally during conversation much like planning our next chess moves. Its a function of our legalistic heritage (sorry counselors). But it doesn't have to be. Listening is a skill (many resources available) and as you improve in it you'll immediately increase your presence as well as communication. Everyone wants to go to that “good listener” in the office. Listen to me on this
- Pause – learn from Native Americans and let silence prevail. Good conversations rise and fall like waves, and allow sink time (or sync time) to enable us to reflect and consider what we've just heard. Remember the last powerful speech you heard? Guarantee it was full of pauses to let points crystalize. Use time – and the art of the pause – to build impact and import into your conversations
- Speak less – there is so much that needn't be said. Ever hear someone remark “I have nothing to add” and then blather on for ten minutes in a meeting? They were right: they had nothing to add. If you can't add value to the conversation, smile, nod, make eye contact, etc., – and leave the speaking to others. Yes, you will say less. And yes, you will be a better communicator.
- Summarize – when finishing calls, 1:1s, meetings, etc., summarize. Yes its a technique. Yes it builds better communication. This simple practice drives the clarity we need to build steps to move forward. Having interesting conversations meandering about without purpose is a cocktail party. Making plans, identifying next steps and establishing timelines is business. Summarize to enable action
Effective communication is essential. For humans it's the lifeblood of both our commerce and intercourse. And we can become better at this, like any other skill.
Becoming an effective communication partner is something you can choose to do starting today.
We're all waiting to talk with you!