6 Keys to Better Communication That Really Work

What really works in communication will change from situation to situation, so that is why we start with….

1.  Know the purpose of the communication.  Is it to chat and be friendly?  Create warmth and rapport?  Or is it a task driven communication?  A bit of each?  If it is rapport driven, it will often take more time and seem unproductive in terms of task.  Of course, without trust and rapport, communication about tasks can quickly run into problems — and take longer.  That’s why it is tricky.   There is no magic answer; you have to pay attention.

2.  Learn to focus and give the other person full attention.  Notice not only what they say, but also how they say it.  This is the opposite of thinking about what you will be saying next, or wondering whom just texted you.  Be PRESENT!  A lot of issues with both rapport and productivity magically clear when you are fully present.  If this is an issue for you, look into skills and practices, which increase your mindfulness and presence.

3.  Let the other person talk, too.This may not be an issue for some, but if you tend to talk more than half the time (be honest), you lose your impact (and maybe your friends).  LISTEN! If the other person participates as much as you, then you both buy-in to conversation.  Problems get solved when both people have buy-in and are willing to cooperate. However, if you are a dump truck of words, only you are buying-in. 

4.  Notice the response you get.  If you really pay attention, you’ll know when you hit the right chord.  You won’t need to assume or guess — their face and posture will tell you.  

5.  Organize your thoughts when you are trying to be productive.  If you are just hanging out, enjoy the stream of consciousness. But if you want business to happen, get to the point.  What’s important?  Give the other person a context and wait until they agree to be on this topic.  (How many times do people launch into a topic without waiting for the other person’s acknowledgement of “go ahead”?)  

How can you relay the information succinctly?  This is one of the keys of credibility — don’t ramble, state.  An example can be enlightening — but make it an example, not a 5-minute story.  Stay on one topic and finish the conversation before sailing on to the second topic. Consider a summary if the explanation is long, and give the other person a change to restate and ask questions. 

6.  Be organized yourself.  Follow-up, remember personal details (start with names), thank people.  Occasionally follow-up with emails, and occasionally do it with paper — what an impact a written thank you makes!    

There is no perfect communication — it is a dance, and like a dance it will ebb and flow.  There is, however, ways to deceive ourselves into thinking we are communicating when we aren’t — we’re just talking or writing. Take one of these suggestions each day for a week and practice.  It’s the road to change and improvement.

Judith Sugg, Ph.D. is an associate at Alisa Blum & Associates and co-director of AIM for Organizational Health.  Contact us at aimportland@gmail.com to explore how we can help to improve communication in the workplace. Information about our services can be found at www.aimportland.com.