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How to improve your communication skills

Learning Lounge – Learning Bite

Communication Essentials – How to improve your communication skills at work.

It doesn’t matter how you are communicating with others it always seems to be straightforward and easy to put into practice, however in reality it is not so easy.

There are so many factors at play that we need to recognise and work with, from ourselves as well as the person(s) we are communicating with.

Let’s us start with some basics in how to improve your communication skills:

  • When we communicate are we making sure the other party receives the message as we intended it?
  • Have we recognised that the receiver will always take the communication from their perspective?
  • Have we used the receiver’s perspective with a view to the communication?
  • Have we been flexible in our approach to the communication?

When we communicate are we making sure the other party receives the message as we intended it?

‘The meaning of the communication is the response it elicits’

In life it is often presumed that the other person(s) will understand exactly what we are communicating, ‘I mean it is obvious isn’t it…’

You can almost certainly quote examples of where you communicated a certain message, or idea, and got a response that made you wonder if the other person had heard you, or whether he had understood you.

And yet, the other person may well have made a perfectly ‘honest’ response and have acted with the most positive of intentions. This is true in both written and verbal communication.

The fact is that if we communicate the way we ‘see things’, or the way we ‘feel about’ things to be, we may not get our message across at all. The reason for that may well be that the other person does not see, hear, or feel the same ideas in the same way as we do. They may well not be in the same ‘state’ as we are in at that time.

Another fact is that as soon as we start to communicate our message becomes distorted.

So, taking all the facts and circumstances of any communication into account, we have to agree that:

The meaning of any communication is not in the ‘message’ itself, but in the response to that message.

Think about this:

The idea that the meaning is the response is a long way from being mere theory: it is extremely useful to us. It tells us that if we get the wrong response, we need to try again in a different way – a way that will work with the other person.

Exercise

Think of an idea, a question or an instruction you recently gave to another person that caused the ‘wrong response’ as far as you were concerned.

1 verbal and 1 written.

  • Why do you think this was?
  • What would have improved the response you received?
improve your communication skills

Have we recognised that the receiver will always take the communication from their perspective?

‘People operate from their perspective of the world’. (‘rather than from what the world really is’)

Another essential is that individuals view things from their own perspective, whether you are the communicator or receiver, the truth is your perspective rather than the wider view

This ‘essential’ stems from the simple fact that we are all unique.

This ‘uniqueness’, of talents, of experiences, of education, of social condition will condition our responses to given ideas or situations.

We must never assume that others think as we do about anything. If anything, it is probably safer to assume the opposite.

Think about someone you know in your office.

How alike you are they?

Do they think as you do?

What are the differences and how do you take account of this when you communicate to them?

Have we been flexible in our approach to the communication?

In interactions between people the person with the most flexible behaviour can control the outcome. 

This idea follows on from the first three and is complementary to them. The three essentials which precede this tell us that we are all different, and that we all have our own view of the world. They also tell us that, to be in rapport, we may well have to change and to see the other person’s perspective: joining others at their map of the world.

So, people who can be flexible, who can find different ways of communicating with others, will have the best chance of successful communication.

Exercise:
     

Consider the people you communicate with

Those who you find difficult to get the message across and how you overcome this, how you flex?

How about those you find it easier to communicate with, why is this?

Now coming closer to home, how do you change your communication to ensure you do not upset a loved one?

This is when we truly do need to flex our style.

This learning bite was written by Mike Willoughby

Further reading on why improving communication skills is important from Forbs 

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