By Barbara Bulleit, Global Knowledge Instructor Communication We communicate all the time, every day. Sometimes we're even aware of it! We communicate through gesture, body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice as well as through the words we speak. These variables can be joined in a variety of ways in our communication. Add to this mix: language; cultural and social differences; educational background; physical proximity; and individual fears, insecurities, strengths, and weaknesses. No wonder communication is complex! There is a huge amount of information on communication and different methodologies for improvement. The following offers one perspective on communication. First of all, being successful in business requires effective communication. This paper focuses on effective business communication, although the information can be applied generally. To untangle the mix described above and to improve communication, we can focus on several key elements: • • •
Purpose Style Listening
Purpose In business, when we communicate we usually have a purpose. Sometimes we have not considered that purpose sufficiently before beginning the dialogue, which can lead to confusion and mixed messages. So, first we must clarify our purpose. What do I want as a result of this communication? What would be a successful outcome? As an example, let's consider dialogue with an employee regarding a new assignment. Initially, we may look at the assignment and consider that its successful completion is the purpose. But let's break this process further down into smaller steps, with handing off the assignment being the first step. Our desired outcome FOR THE MEETING to hand off the assignment might be: • • • •
Employee fully understands the assignment Responds to questions to ensure understanding Is able to paraphrase assignment requirements Is aware of consequences of completing or not completing assignment
• • • • • • •
Employee has an idea of how to proceed Articulates next steps Identifies problems, etc Or we and employee discuss together Employee knows resources available Employee knows where to go for help We and employee agree on a follow-up status check meeting
If we have been successful in this first communication regarding the assignment, we have already established a paradigm for communication during the assignment work, including follow-ups to check status, make corrections, and to compliment upon completion. Clarity in the initial communication makes a huge difference. And to back up one step, clarifying our purpose before starting the communication can separate effective communication from that which is unclear, does not have sufficient detail, leaves no room for questions or advice, or does not ensure the employee can gain access to sufficient resources. A clearly identified purpose can mean the difference between success or failure, and while thinking through a purpose may take time initially, we will eventually form a consistent habit of clarifying desired outcome – which usually leads to better results. Style Style has to do with who we are and how who we are affects our communication. We may engage in dialogue with little knowledge of the impact of individual differences. Some of us may have a higher awareness of style differences and still not use this awareness when communicating. Others of us become aware of stylistic differences only when having a problem communicating. Let's stop for a moment and further define "style." Style is influenced by many factors, some of which were defined at the beginning of this article. A longer list might include culture, upbringing, religion, gender, age, education, language, race, politics - and this is not a total list. Some of the influences of our early years are mitigated or enhanced during our growth and experience. In all, we become who we are, and who we are influences our communication. Let's stay at...