“Healthy communication is impossible without openness, honesty, and vulnerability.” -Paul Kendall
In life, and especially in the workplace, communication is influence, and like all influence, how you use it MATTERS. Communication skills affect how you give, receive, and express information. After all, good communication skills are among the most in-demand soft skills within the workplace; they’re essential for fostering solid relationships with team members, being a more effective negotiator, and being able to motivate those around you. The ability to communicate effectively with management, colleagues, and peers is essential, no matter your industry. Good communication skills increase hiring chances, advance promotions, and support growth as a workspace leader. But how do we as leaders and employees become a better, clearer communicators in our space?
Everyone struggles with communicating effectively at times; maybe your content wasn’t straightforward, the medium you chose wasn’t the best for the purpose, or your emotions got the best of you in a difficult conversation. Organizationally speaking, these communication obstacles can create barriers for forging strong relationships, reducing trust between colleagues. According to a 2021 Gallup study, “only 17% of employees strongly agree that ‘there is open communication throughout all levels of the organization.’” While this alarmingly low percentage highlights communication pitfalls, it also highlights areas for growth. The good news is that business communication skills are not innate; they can be learned.
Being a good communicator starts with being able first to listen, actively. Make it your goal to be an excellent communicator—eager to listen and learn in every conversation. When communicating with others, listen to create clarity and mutual understanding. Be curious—demonstrate a genuine interest in what the other is saying by asking straightforward questions that continue to clarify the other person’s meaning. Questions like “tell me more” and “how might that turn out if…” are great prompts for creating a mutual understanding and connection in the conversation.
Before voicing how you feel, make sure you have heard what the other person has had to say, in its entirety. Refrain from influencing someone else’s thoughts and feelings with your own until the other person has wholeheartedly expressed their side/shared their information. If you feel yourself start to push back or disagree with what the other is saying, take a step back, breathe, and reframe your thoughts for positivity. Seeking optimal solutions in any situation will build momentum for a mutual connection.
Every conversation is a give and take exchange; remember when conversing to:
- Actively listen and be curious, with open mind and genuine interest
- Seek out and accept feedback regularly
- Choose the right channel—the most appropriate method to share the information
- Establish rapport with employees—the more the trust is mutual, the better the communication
LEADERSHIP TAKEAWAY: Good communicators know that listening skills are just as important as speaking abilities for building connection in a conversation. Listening will affect HOW we deliver our message. When we only say what is on our minds, without truly listening for others’ perspectives, we are not communicating so others can hear us!
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Dr. Cheri Rainey is the CEO/Founder of Rainey Leadership Learning, partnering with leaders to support the entire employee life cycle.