Are We Speaking the Same Language?
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation with someone, but it was clear you were both speaking different languages? I know that I have. Communication is one of the areas where many people struggle in the workplace. Whether you are leading a team or reporting to a manager - you can find yourself in the middle of a communication problem.
When I reflect on my time in leadership, I know that communication has been one of the areas where I’ve had to grow the most. Specifically, because I had to not only communicate with stakeholders, but I had to communicate with a variety of personalities on the team I led. I often felt like a fire juggler: trying to keep multiple, sensitive conversations in the air at the same time, while ensuring that the desired outcome was achieved (and not injure anyone in the process).
In thinking about how to approach communication, there’s a few reflective reminders I would give myself. Each of these help me frame how to approach the conversation and remain aware of any potential blind spots that could arise along the way:
Know Your People: Who are you communicating with? Do you know their communication style? If someone prefers receiving emails, then texting might not be the best way to get across to them. This doesn’t mean you have to solely use one method, but you want to be aware of what works best.
Focus on the Outcome: Most of my conversations are driven by what I want to be accomplished. When the communication gets cloudy or overwhelming, I get back to the foundation of the conversation by asking myself: What is my desired outcome?
Remain an Active Listener: Active listening isn’t always easy. When I’m speaking with someone, I often remind myself to let them complete their thoughts before I speak. I give myself reminders to lean into what they’re sharing, and I will follow-up with clarifying questions if needed.
We all communicate differently. Once I grasped that concept, I approached conversations with the goal of understanding the other person, rather than assuming they would communicate in a way that was comfortable for me. When I find myself getting frustrated, I return to these three points to try and get everyone on the same page.
Remember: “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” - Brian Tracy