Effective workplace communication is critical to our success and satisfaction at work. Effective communication in the workplace can be especially challenging since people we wouldn't necessarily choose to have in our lives often surround us. It is kind of like that old saying, "you can't choose your family." Well, oftentimes you can't choose your co-workers either.
Even if everyone you work with is a peach and you love your job, utilizing the essential elements for effective workplace communication is necessary to avert potential problems. One "bad" communication can spoil even the most positive work environment. When people are concerned about "upsetting the apple cart" by saying the wrong thing they often suppress their response until enough upsetting things happen. This build up of negative
emotions can lead to gossip, cliques and divisiveness before you know it.
How do you avoid all this? By utilizing the four essential elements for effective workplace communication.
The first essential element is to become aware of the perspective you are bringing to the communication, i.e. your opinions and judgements. The intention of good communication is for a sharing of ideas, a co-creation if you will. Most communication breaks down because people are attempting to convince others of the "rightness" of their point of view. After you become aware that you are coming from a perspective it frees you to ask yourself the following questions:
* Am I willing to learn new information that might change my mind?
* What questions can I ask to ascertain the perspectives of those I am
* How will my perspective influence how I participate in the communication?
Once you answer these questions you are ready for the second essential
element: Get clear about the intended outcome for the communication. Are you seeking merely compliance? Do you want to cause a change in attitude or behavior? To enrich the relationships? To be enlivened and engaged as a
result of the communication? Are you looking for innovative, creative ideas?
Each of these outcomes requires a different approach. Your communication is influenced by the outcome you are aiming for.
The third essential element is to be conscious throughout the communication of what you say and how you listen. Keeping in mind the outcome you want to achieve, ask yourself is what you are saying and how you are listening moving you toward it? Being conscious of how you listen is as critical as being conscious of what you say. How you listen comes from the assessments and opinions you have about any given situation. "He's lazy", "She's great", "I don't like that", "He's wrong", "I love working hard", "She shouldn't do that," are all examples of opinions that shape how you listen. You listen differently to "lazy Joe" than you do to "superstar Sally." You listen differently to your boss than you do to your spouse. Mostly we are unaware of our listening and pay little attention to it. The key to effective communication is to be conscious of how you are listening. Choose to listen for the best in others or listen with curiosity, or for how the person can contribute to the success of the team. Then speak in accordance with the outcome you want and the listening you chose.
The fourth essential element is completion. The intention is to come to a shared understanding of what was communicated. Do not assume a shared understanding exists. People listen and interpret meaning differently so this step determines the effectiveness of your communication. If you followed the first three essential elements but leave this out you will not know if what you meant was heard. Ask for others' understanding of what was communicated. Look for gaps and clarify any points. When there are discrepancies between what you meant and what was heard that is an indicator of your communication effectiveness. Get curious about where these discrepancies occurred. The gaps will reveal which of the essential elements you need to go to work on to become a more effective communicator.
Mastering these four essential elements for effective workplace communication will take time and practice however the investment is worth it.