You already know how hard it can be to communicate. Every problem I’ve ever encountered, or at least its fix, is linked to communication. At some level, every interaction with another person, whether an individual or team, is a type of communication. Ever have a problem with another person? A group of people? Then it’s likely you could have improved the situation by improving your communication.
For example, what if you and a new acquaintance are discussing politics at a dinner party and you realize that you’re polar opposites. One of you is radically conservative while the other is radically liberal. How you communicate those differences has a tremendous impact on where the relationship goes. Will you leave as enemies or friends? If you communicate your view and listen to theirs with empathy and respect, you’re likely to leave as friends. If you put the other person down, laugh at their political viewpoint, and demonstrate a lack of interest, you may leave as enemies.
Great communication didn’t cause the two of you to have difference political leanings, but great communication can help serve as a bridge that brings you to an island of common ground to dialogue and learn from each other. If you really think about it, I believe you’ll be hard-pressed to think about a situation where great communication couldn’t help improve the situation in some way.
Think for a moment about a technical problem such as curing cancer, or a social problem such as how to deal with rising crime rates. Can you see how great communication can help? It helps scientists, doctors, and engineers work across disciplines. It helps facilitate ideas and actions that can lead to the cure for cancer. Great communication helps law enforcement agencies and local community leaders think about options and brainstorm potential solutions to crime.
If you’re involved with people, improving your communication skills will provide a return on your investment. Want a great relationship with your spouse, your kids, your boss, your friends, or your neighbors? Improve your communication skills. Communicate more effectively. Bridge the gap. Listen, empathize and speak clearly. Do it often.
One tip that will help improve your communication is to “think out loud.” This is a communication catalyst. Letting others understand the rationale behind your decision. Telling your subordinates how you reached your conclusion will help them understand you and enable them to come closer to meeting your needs the next time. Explaining to your spouse why you would rather go to a Chinese restaurant on Friday instead of an Italian place will reduce confusion.
A quick example, I love Mexican food and often choose it as my favored cuisine. But perhaps on Friday night, when selecting a restaurant, I tell my wife I don’t want Mexican. In fact, I say that I’m happy with “anything but Mexican.” If I don’t explain my logic, my rationale, I’ll confuse her. She knows me well. She wonders why I don’t want Mexican. Maybe I’m sick. Maybe my tastes are changing. She doesn’t know what’s going on, so she asks why I don’t want Mexican. What if I say, “I just don’t”? Is that going to put us on common ground? No. Is that going to help her understand me and build the relationship in any way? No. But what if I say, “honey I ate Mexican at work today for lunch and I don’t feel like having it two meals in a row.” Bam! See how easy that was? She understands my rationale and has a better understanding of “why” I don’t want Mexican food that night.
Being transparent is a means of demonstrating authenticity. Being transparent acts as a communication catalyst. Being “open” and transparent makes me think of windows, like the one pictured above. Windows let light in. Windows also let light out. There are many ways to improve your communication skills, but one of the easiest is to be transparent with those around you. Be like a window. Give others a glimpse into what’s going on inside your brain and heart as you make decisions. Think out loud. Doing so will allow others to more intelligently engage you in conversation. Allowing others to understand the “behind the scenes” view of your position or stance will help bring you to a place of common ground.
Perhaps you thought you were on complete opposite sides of an issue, but as you opened up and shared your thought processes, you find that you agree on the severity of the issue, you just have a different idea on how to address it. But it’s a start! Now you have common ground. You know you both believe the problem is severe and needs addressed. You can now work on brainstorming solutions together. And when you disagree with their means of solving the problem, remind yourself (and them) that you share the same passion to fix the problem. Make sense?
How do share your thought processes with others? Or do you? How do you think out loud, explain the “why” or demonstrate transparency in your communications with others?
As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.
Dr. Robert Gerwig is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.
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