Almost every job specification out there has one thing in common: the need for good communication skills in the person that will perform the job particularly in jobs pertaining to the field of social business. Communication is vital to success in the workplace, and arguably also outside of it. Those that succeed at work are those that are able to best get their point across according to Karen Friedman, a respected communication expert. People that have better job satisfaction will frequently be those that are able to communicate more effectively at work. Communicating well at work leads to recognition and for those that work hard too, promotion in many cases.
Many people think that communication is easy, but the truth is that it is much more difficult than you might think. As George Bernard Shaw once famously said:
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”George Bernard Shaw quote
So how do we go so wrong? Well, one of the most difficult challenges is that we focus on the wrong things. We spend excessive time thinking about what we will say and how we will say it when rather we should be empathising with the other person. This involves understanding their position and how they might be impacted by what we are going to say to them. If we understand that then we can tailor the message according to their needs, making it increasingly likely that the communication will be received and understood.
Communication is not just about what people say. This is a misconception about communication. It is in fact also about what people do with their body and eyes when they are talking with you and what they fail to say. If someone says yes, and appears to be in agreement with you but has their arms folded and will not make eye contact then the chances are that they do not really agree at all, and their body language may be communicating to you what they really think. People with folded arms and legs are defensive. Those leaning forward are engaged in what you have to say and those leaning back are not. Understanding how communication through body language works can improve your communication skills no end, as you realise that there is a lot more being communicated than what spills out of a person’s mouth.
Another major problem with communication in the work place is that listening skills are often very poor. This brings us back to the comment of George Bernard Shaw again. You may think you have told someone something and so you have communicated it, but they may not have understood. A good technique for making sure that a person has really understood what you are saying is to ask them to explain what you said and what they understand from that. You can use the same technique to show that you have understood what a person is saying to you. This inspires confidence in you, as it shows you were actively listening.
The great news about communication is that as Brian Tracy helpfully puts it:
“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”7 ways to improve your communication skills Intelligenthq
By making sure that you understand the perspective of others, and in being able to better frame your communications to be able to tailor them appropriately to others’ needs you stand a much greater chance of getting what you want from a situation and from appearing positive and helpful in the process. According to Karen Friedman there are some basic, straightforward ways that you can do this. One is being clear and to the point. Friedman argues for getting to the main point quickly and concisely is critical to good communication. Another great tip from Friedman is to ask open ended questions as these can help to get more information from the other person that can help you to be able to clarify what the situation actually is. Having a can-do approach is also important according to Friedman. It is always better to tell people what you can do rather than what you cannot, and putting a positive spin on information will help to avoid you from coming across as a naysayer. One final point from Friedman is that if you do not have something nice to say then do not say anything at all. This is essential for good relationships in the work place.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.