Improve Your Communication
Originally published: 10.01.19 by Megan Jackson
Practice proper listening and communication to become a better leader.
At least once in every person’s life they will find themselves in a situation of total embarrassment, a situation where they understood or heard one thing, while the reality was something completely different.
Our ability to listen and process information is key to navigating thru life’s twists and turns. For me, one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and career, would prove to be an opening for my path in life.
Back in September of 2007 I found myself unemplyed and struggling in many areas of my life. I had the opportunity to interview at a local HVACR company thanks to a family member at the time, and while I didn’t have any direct experience with the field, I had worked for three years in a Property Management Company in Maryland that exposed me to many different trades.
The position was for an Administrative Assistant and I knew that no matter what the field, I had plenty experience in computers and office processes and procedures. The interview went well, I thought, and I walked away under the assumption that the job was mine, I just needed to let the owner know of my intentions.
Now we all know how well assumptions work … needless to say, I was a little off the mark. I let the family member, who was the current service manager, know of my intentions to start the Tuesday after the holiday and asked him to please notify the owner.
Tuesday morning, I walked in with my lunch and all of my office/computer stuff. I walked right to the only available desk, which I assumed was supposed to be mine, and started formatting the computer to my preferences and setting up all of my office materials. I left to go put my lunch in the fridge, and little did I know that while I was gone, the owner and the service manager began a game of “who hired Megan?”
When it became apparent that neither of them had officially hired me, it became obvious that I had hired myself. Needless to say, no one in the HISTORY of the working world has ever had a more awkward first day then I did.
Thankfully, the owner was gracious enough to let me stay with the understanding that if at any time during the trial employment period of 90 days, if either he or myself thought that I wasn’t a good fit, we would part ways and there would be no hard feelings. That was 12 years ago last month.
Clean and Efficient Communication
My example and experience may have been humorous but not all situations of miscommunication end this well. As in all professions, clean and efficient communication and understanding is key to not only success, but also survival.
Proper training and preparation are paramount. When faced with a generation where technology seems to be king, what are the answers to instilling proper communication?
Research shows there are many different ways to communicate. People make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year teaching seminar’s on how to be a better leader, a better communicator or even a better listener.
And while each of these instructors have their own “proven” methods, in the end the steps to proper listening and communication are simple.
Find the Right Time
Understand there is a time and place to handle certain conversations or instructions. This can greatly improve one’s ability to both concentrate and retain the information being shared.
We’ve all been guilty of playing the telephone game, where a simple phrase becomes grossly confused and twisted due to lack of paying proper attention. Face-to-face communication in which eye contact is held can greatly increase the level of respect between individuals as well as allowing the person giving the instructions the opportunity to ensure that everyone is paying attention and receiving the same message or instruction.
Face-to-face communication also avoids the temptation to multi-task while listening, which inevitably causes missed communication, mistakes and can be misconstrued as showing a lack of respect.
Teach by Example
When communicating with another individual it’s important to treat and speak to that person in the same manner you wish to be spoken to. Screaming and hollering, no matter whether at a child or an adult, is a sure way to cause a break in the flow of information and communication.
Listen and Repeat
When instructing or teaching another individual it’s important to not only speak clearly but to verify that the others involved understood what was being said. A simple request to have the information repeated back can avoid costly misunderstandings and confusion.
Encourage Taking Notes
Communication is key but memory and the ability to return back to key points can lead to a higher level of success and avoid simple mistakes. Which is why it’s important whenever you are learning something new to take notes so that you can return to them whenever needed to double check your work and processes.
Be forward and clear with your message to avoid confusion. Its very easy today for adults to be become side tracked or even “squirrel” when communicating with others around them. When instructing another individual it is important to stay on track and make sure to avoid side comments or opinions until after the initial conversation has been completed.
Listen as You Speak
Better listeners make better communicators. Any couples therapist will tell you that whenever you are speaking with your spouse it is important to listen to what they are saying rather than mentally preparing your next point.
This fact holds true in every aspect of life where communication is involved. To properly communicate you must also be able to properly listen. One’s ability to clearly share information and instructions can help avoid simple mistakes and pitfalls in life.
Know your Audience
The methods of communication are almost as diverse as the different personality types that exist today. Generational differences coupled with your basic language barriers and the simple fact that some individuals are book learners where some are visual learners means that knowing the audience of those you are speaking with or teaching can make the difference between successful communication and a case of missed communication.
Keep it Positive
No one wants to listen to a Debbie Downer when receiving important information or when receiving instructions. While life can throw curve balls at any moment it is helpful to try and keep a positive outlook, specially when speaking with others around you. All news whether good or bad is easier to swallow and handle when laced with a little honey and a smile.
Lack of proper communication is a burden that every person, business, industry, etc. deals with. This is a problem that knows no boundaries or exceptions and when left untrained can cause devastation and destruction in its wake.
But all hope is not loss as we move forward in the future of not only the industry but for society as a whole. The steps are simple and once implemented properly the level of communication should over time increase and improve.