You have undoubtedly heard, many times, that the secret to success in any relationship is communication. While this is true, you can communicate like crazy with your spouse, your peers, your employees, your clients, and the relationship can still suffer and fail.
So, what happens when we aren’t communicating well? We either develop a contentious relationship or we choose to stop communicating as much as the relationship will allow. I guarantee you that if you go down either of those paths, the relationship will go up in flames.
In Interpersonal Communication 101 we learn that for communication between two parties to be considered successful, both the sender and the receiver must understand the same information. Ok, fine. How do we do that? As with any relationship, we must invest time into it. We need to learn who this other person is and find out about their communication needs and preferences.
Does this person prefer a phone call? Do they want you to get on their calendar when you have something to discuss? Can you just pop into their office? Or, are they down to chat or text at the drop of a hat? Find this out and you will be well on your way to having a successful relationship with them.
Another critical item that will help you achieve a successful relationship based upon good communication goes back to the adage, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Put your personal agenda on hold and actively listen to what the other person is telling you. If you don’t understand something, ask them to clarify it for you.
Something I want to point out here is the difference between face-to-face communication vs on the telephone, especially as it applies to listening. In person, you can give visual clues that you are listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding, taking notes. But, when you are on the phone, they can’t see you so you need to give them some auditory signals to communicate that you are listening. Throwing in an, “ok”, “I see” or even an “mmm-hmm” will indicate that you are hearing them and haven’t zoned out. Depending upon who you are speaking with, you can even tell them you are taking some notes so that you don’t miss any key information. Re-cap what they told you to ensure you understood them fully. Use phrases like, “so what you are saying is…”, “if I have understood you correctly….”.
When it is your turn to tell someone else what you need, be clear and straight to the point. If you have a deadline, don’t skirt around it, come right out with it so you set them up to succeed.
Remember to check for understanding, especially when you are delivering quite a bit of information. Ask if they have understood what you have said rather than assuming they have. Don’t just ask if they understand because people tend to automatically say they do. A polite way to phrase this is to ask them if they have any questions about what you said, or ask if you missed anything or went too fast.
If you choose to communicate with an open mind, empathy, clarity, and conciseness you will avoid many of the pitfalls of poor communication and you will foster trust in others.