Have you ever been in a conversation with one of your employees and found it hard to communicate with them? Or, after you have had the conversation, it turns out there were misunderstandings that were not clarified, and led to further miscommunications that had to be resolved at a later date. If you answered yes to either one of those two possibilities, there were probably several factors that led to this predicament.
Many times, without consciously knowing it, we set ourselves up for defeat when trying to effectively interact with another person. Whether it is on the phone or in person, there are some barriers we must identify and eliminate if we are to be successful in our communication.
First, if you are in your office, close the door. This can be very effective in eliminating interruptions and distractions that could occur during your conversation. Many times, without meaning to do so, other managers or employees can hamper your efforts to connect with the person with whom you are communicating, by interrupting or disturbing your one-on-one conversations. By closing the door, it can prevent this type of unwanted interruption. This also sends a clear message that your communication time with the people in your office is important no matter who they are.
Next, with someone in your office or when you are on the telephone, put your computer on sleep mode or simply turn your chair away from it so you will not be distracted by what is on the screen. There is nothing more unprofessional and irritating than a person who is supposedly communicating with another, and continues to tap away on their computer keyboard. Research has proven, that trying to do two things at one time, only lessens the effectiveness of both activities. Despite what you say, if you are not focusing on the other person, you are creating a solid barrier to good communication.
Another suggestion is to stop thinking you know what the other person is going to say, or worse, preparing how you will respond to them before you have heard everything the person has to say. Encourage the person to talk further, and clarify their message, by asking them open-ended questions. Open ended questions require more than a one word response. Some examples of open-ended questions are:
- How do you mean?
- Then what happened?
- Could you tell me more?
These kinds of questions allow the other person an opportunity to fill in all the details, and make their communication much more complete and clear.
Another tip to prevent miscommunication with your employees or another manager comes from Marshall Goldsmith. He reminds us to stop finishing other people’s sentences. Let’s face it, we have all been guilty of this kind of obstacle to good communication. And the truth is no one likes to have their sentences finished for them. It is just plain rude, and is the mark of an individual’s lack of professional courtesy. So, why do people continue to violate this rule? One excuse given is because they think they are saving time. If anything, it wastes time because it can set up miscommunication by shutting the other person off from communicating everything they want to say and the way they want to say it.
Finally, at the end of your conversation, ask for clarification about the communication between you and the other person. Clarify what you heard and what action you want the other person to take. Clarify what you have said and what action the other person expects you to take. Using this approach can be a powerful tool in maximizing the results from each and every business conversation you have.
In summary, to improve your communication results, take inventory of what you are now doing and stop doing the things that are non productive. Then start doing the things that will make you a really good communicator.