Misunderstandings are always painful, but when they occur at work, they can also be extremely costly. Help your employees avoid project missteps, missed deadlines and even hurt feelings by providing communication skills training for the entire organization. Ensure that employees practice basic communication skills like speaking (or writing) with clarity in mind, being direct, communicating non-defensively, and practicing active listening.
Speak and write with clarity
Lack of clarity or incomplete information opens the door for misinterpretation and faulty assumptions, which leads to wasted time and hurt feelings.To avoid miscommunication when you are speaking or writing, present ALL the information you can that might be relevant to the situation. Make it as clear as possible, and if it’s written communication, re-read what you’ve written before you send it – often, this will uncover numerous spots where you’ll think, “I could word that more clearly.”
Communication skills video: Communication Counts examines six day-to-day things people do that cause costly misunderstandings and mishaps. Tips for preventing them are provided.
Practice active (empathic) listening
Employing active listening ensures that a message isn’t missed. Without active listening, vital information the sender assumes has been communicated may, in fact, not be received. Keep your focus when someone is speaking by taking notes or asking questions. Feed back what you’ve heard; for example, “Here’s what I think I heard you say…”. Remember, empathic listening means listening – not with the intent to respond – but with the intent to really understand the speaker.
Communication skills video: Nobody’s Listening features a manager who’s forced to repeat the same humorous interaction with his employee over and over until he finally, truly listens.
Be direct (and avoid jargon)
Another way to avoid miscommunications is to be direct. Often, it’s more comfortable when we have something difficult to say to be indirect in order to avoid conflict and personal discomfort. But the other person is often left unclear about the purpose of the conversation. Be direct, but respectful. Another way we fail to be direct is when we rely too heavily on industry or workplace jargon. You can’t assume every listener will be familiar with all your jargon, so avoid overly-technical words and phrases. Use language that everyone will understand.
Communication skills video: Communication Breakdown identifies the seven communication problems most likely to derail an organization and how they can be avoided.
We’ve all done it at some point: we perceive a comment someone makes as an attack. We react defensively. That provokes more defensiveness from the other person. It’s important in these situations to realize the part you’re playing, disengage from the emotional turmoil happening, empathize with the other person, and actively combat defensiveness in your own communication. By learning to choose what we say and how we say it, and by expressing ourselves in as non-threatening a way as possible, we will be improving our own communication and encouraging others to do so, as well.
Communication skills video: Communicating Non-Defensively reveals why people get defensive and teaches 5 steps for sending and receiving messages non-defensively.