Communication is the primary tool we use to interact with others. It is vital in the development of successful business and personal relationships. Helen Keller who was blind, deaf and mute needed to learn ways to communicate so she could participate in the world. Participating in everyday life requires the development of effective, respectful communication skills.
The 3 key steps to compelling communication are Listening, Awareness and Questions
Sometimes silence is the most effective listening tool available. Have you ever noticed people who frequently interrupt conversations in order to make their point? What is the message to the person who was talking? Other times people rush to speak as a way of showing they understand or perhaps they have a solution to offer. To really listen means to give someone your complete time and attention without judgment or assumptions.
An employee went to her manager for suggestions and support in dealing with a difficult client. As she began describing the situation, her boss kept interrupting her and making assumptions. She never got the chance to fully clarify what had occurred and as a result the recommendations she was given for handling the situation were not particularly relevant. The impact of being a good listener can bring positive returns in not only working with colleagues but with clients and suppliers as well. When you do not fully listen and understand the concerns, how can you deal with it?
In order to be truly aware you need to recognize what you are saying and doing as well as noticing other people's actions and reactions. In the work world as you move your way up the ladder of responsibility you will have managers and bosses who guide you and give constructive criticism. However, if you dislike your job or some aspect of the job you need to be aware of how your dislike might be coming across. How do you deal with a colleague or boss with whom you are having problems? What is your response? As you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings about a challenging situation, you are better able to manage and plan your actions.
It is equally important to be aware of how others may be feeling or behaving. If you are interacting with people face to face you may notice their body language. In today's world this can sometimes be challenging as you may be doing a lot of communicating by computer and phone. Therefore it is important to pay attention to tone of voice and the tone of emails. Your awareness and sensitivity of yourself and others invites collaborative solutions to problems and concerns.
Asking people questions instead of making assumptions is a useful way of gathering information. However the kind of questions you ask and the tone of your voice is key. Questions which are critical and judgmental disrupt communication, whereas questions which come from a place of curiosity and inquiry invite more meaningful conversations.
According to the "Inquiry Institute" there are two main types of questions, "judging or learning." Questions which have an accusatory tone such as "who's at fault, why are they so irritating or why can't I do anything right," generally contribute to people being stuck. Questions which invite possibilities like "What can I learn from this, what are the options and how can we do it differently the next time," tend to produce a more positive outcome. Which kind of questions would you respond to more favorably?
To move your conversations forward in the direct you want them to be going remember to really listen to what people are saying, be aware of yourself and others and ask questions which invite collaboration.
Copyright 2008, Gail Solish, Communication and Relationship Coach. All rights reserved. Visit http://www.actualizeyourgoals.com for more tips and information on communication skills and developing positive business and personal relationships. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter "Actualize Your Goals".
Gail Solish, provides Executive/Personal coaching to managers, directors and executives focused on workplace development and relationship management. Claim your copy of "7 Keys to Effective Communication" Today at http://www.ActualizeYourGoals.com