Today we’re talking about effective communication. Although we all say we know how important communication is, many of us actually don’t understand what it means to communicate effectively. Communication is an essential part of every aspect of our lives – from our personal lives to our professional lives and all points in between. So, I thought I would share some strategies that you can utilize to improve your communication. The story I am sharing today is about communication in the office but the ideas presented apply in any setting. I will write another post about interpersonal communication soon.
For effective communication to occur, there are three things to take into consideration – the sender, the receiver and the message. The sender formulates the message and “encodes” it in a way that the receiver should understand. However, along the way there may be “noise” which may distort the message during transmission. The result may be that the receiver does not receive the message as intended. When this happens, there can be confusion and other unintended consequences – effective communication has not taken place.
Here are some simple ways to improve communication:
- Be concise and use clear, unambiguous language.
- Keep it as short as possible – no need for unnecessary words or repetition.
- Ensure that non-verbal cues mirror what you are saying.
- Say what you mean! I can’t stress this enough.
- Ask the receiver of the message to repeat what you said in their own words.
- Receivers, seek clarification and do not guess or assume you know what the sender is trying to say.
Why am I choosing to talk about communication? Too often, I hear of situations where much misery could have been avoided if the parties had just communicated better. Too many people are afraid to say what they mean. Personally I think if people would just do this alone, they could have much improved interactions with others. Here in Canada, people don’t seem to like “confrontation”. So, rather than saying what they really want to, they try to avoid conflict by not saying anything at all. Or even worse, they may not say what they really mean.
Let me give you a personal workplace example. Some years ago, when I was pregnant with my second child, I had a colleague who sprayed a “calming spray” in the office every day after lunch. At the time, based on where I sat, I could smell the scent but I didn’t yet know the source. All I knew was, everyday after lunch there was a strong smell that would permeate the office space. I would develop an instant headache and my already constant nausea would kick into a higher gear.
One day at lunch, two other colleagues began to complain about the smell. I asked what it was and they told me who the source of the spray was. Naturally, I asked if they had said anything to the individual and they said no but one of them had gone to HR about it. HR? Really?? I was flabbergasted.
Once we got back from lunch, I immediately went and spoke to the person in question. I explained that the smell was bothering me everyday, making me feel more nauseated and also giving me headaches. The individual in question apologized and promised to stop spraying, effective immediately. The person then told me “thank you for coming to me about it. It shows character because no one else has said anything to me so I didn’t realize it was a problem”. My response was “why wouldn’t I say anything to you about it? You sit 10 ft away from me.”
I began my maternity leave three weeks later and the individual never sprayed the spray again. However, I later learned that on the first day of my leave, the individual began to spray the “calming” spray again. Why? I was the only person who made it known that I had an issue with it, so now that I was gone there was no reason not to resume.
So what are the lessons here?
Don’t be afraid to speak to people.
Speak to them respectfully and they will reciprocate.
Don’t assume others know what you want/need.
Ask for what you want.