You would think in this world of constant communication, we would all be excellent communicators. Surely, you must get better at something you do all day, every day. As you know, though, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are those among us who actually communicate worse, due to their constant engagement. Instead of communicating WITH people they end up shouting AT people. If you want a successful career, though, you must cultivate high-quality communication in everything you do. You must say what you mean, mean what you say and do it in such a way that others can easily understand you. Miscommunication leads to and exacerbates so many other issues in the work environment. These associated problems could easily be avoided if we all took some time and care with our communication.
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The first rule of communication is to slow down. Think about what you want to say, how you will say it and the results you desire from the communication. Too often, many of us simply “spout off” without thinking and quickly damage our relationship with our co-workers, managers and even families. I regularly see so many problems that arise because we don’t think before speaking. This includes myself, of course. Everyone has those moments of indiscretion. It is human nature. The goal is to reduce the frequency of these events by taking a moment to consider what we are going to say — and how it might be received — before we open our mouths.
Second, tell the truth. Go out of your way to be clear and direct with others when necessary. This doesn’t mean being rude or crass, but rather saying what most NEEDS to be said. Many work problems continue and grow because no one has the guts to speak the truth. I am sure we have all seen situations where problems linger simply because everyone is afraid of risking their own position to solve the problem. I know from personal experience how that can dishearten you so much and can sometimes lead to leaving a job or choosing a different career. It may seem risky, but speaking the truth, to those who want and need to hear it, is one path to developing a great career and life.
Next, learn how those around you communicate best. Does your manager need a 30 slide Powerpoint presentation to approve a project, or are they more informal? Can you explain a task quickly to your co-worker or client, or do they need a step-by-step procedure to follow. Does a friend want you to provide possible solutions to their problem or just someone to listen and commiserate? Each person communicates differently and each person has different goals in their communication. Listen and adapt to their needs and yours and your communications will be better received and more productive.
Finally, you must remember that communication is a two-way street. Yes, it can be difficult to communicate with some people due to their personal issues of communication, but you can also cause communication issues yourself. If you aren’t focused on communication, you can rush the process. You can be ambiguous in what you are saying or the outcomes you want to achieve. In some cases you can simply be rude and obnoxious in your communications with others. If you seem to have deep and constant issues with communication, you need to look to yourself before you start blaming others for your failure. If you have difficulty communicating with 1 or 2 people, the problem could lie on either end of the conversation. On the other hand, if you have constant and chronic communication issues, the problem probably resides with you. We often carry our problems with us wherever we go and realizing this fact can often save a job or a career if we realize it soon enough.
In order to be effective in your career you MUST communicate well with those around you. It is a rare careerist who lives their life in a box where they never have to communicate with others. We all have co-workers, managers, clients, editors and audiences we must please and if we can’t communicate clearly, whatever other talents we have will be wasted. Failed communication will yield so many problems that you’ll never be able to achieve your career and business goals. You will simply be spending so much time “putting out fires” that you will never be able to focus on the task at hand. This is no way to build the career your deserve.
As part of my university degree in Communications, I was required to study Interpersonal Communications (or IPCO, as we called it). Myself, and many of my classmates thought it rather silly to apply scientific methods to what most people would simply call “conversation”, but throughout my life, I have found my study of IPCO to very clearly illustrate when failed communication happens and the many reasons why. If you haven’t studied IPCO, I would highly recommend reading (or at least scanning) an IPCO textbook from Amazon or your local library. I think it will be very enlightening.