In our professional and personal lives, everyone has at one time or another been involved in miscommunication. The message was not received and acted upon by the receiver as it was intended by the sender. This scenario is actually all too common. It can result in delays, inefficiencies, increased costs and even strained relationships. The good news is we all have the capacity to advance our communication skills and should continually strive to improve in this area.
It starts with the recognition that our communication skills matter. We need to place priority on being better communicators. Each day provides new opportunities to practice both how we send and receive information. With regular practice, we can reduce the number of miscommunications that take place and the downtime and waste they produce.
To become a better communicator, make it a point to implement these steps on a daily basis:
- Eliminate distractions – Excessive noise, entertainment, phone calls and many other distractions make the communication process more difficult. As much as possible, eliminate them so that your communication isn’t competing with the environment.
- Listen intently – Make sure that you’re fully engaged in the conversation. Concentrate and don’t allow your thoughts to wander and miss an opportunity to create shared understanding with those around you.
- Pace yourself – Try not to communicate too quickly, or slowly. Move at a comfortable pace that doesn’t overwhelm or lose you. If you’re listening to someone who is talking at a pace that’s too fast, ask them to slow down.
- Define ambiguous words or phrases – If you’re unsure about the meaning of a word or phrase, it’s always best to ask for a definition. Avoid assumptions as to what the speaker is trying to communicate. When you’re speaking, use simple and easy to understand language.
- Offer supporting information – Stories and anecdotes often help to illuminate meaning and facilitate understanding. Use them whenever possible to help increase comprehension of your messages.
- Check for understanding – If you’re speaking, close your conversation by asking if there are any questions. If you were the listener, you can state “This is what I heard you say… Is that correct?” This will give the other person a chance to clear up any misunderstandings.
Communicating effectively takes dedication and discipline. By practicing these steps you will dramatically improve as a communicator. The best thing is that once you start, communicating effectively gets easier and easier. So why not start today? A world of better communication awaits.
What do you think? What steps have helped you to improve as a communicator?