First Steps to Effective Communication

First Steps to Effective Communication

Think for a moment about the people with whom you communicate easily and naturally. They are like your second self. You see things the same way they do. You share their thoughts and feelings — you can complete their sentences. Even when you have a dispute, you know they see your side of the story, just as you see theirs.

pair-707505_640Some people, on the other hand, seem to be on a different wavelength. They never see things the same way you do. They don’t tackle problems in the same way. Maybe you think there’s something wrong with your relationship. Most likely, there’s not. More likely, the differences are merely a matter of style

Research shows that people communicate in measurably different ways that reflect differences in what they choose to hear and say. Some people focus on feelings. Some focus on tasks. Some focus on the big picture. Some on the smallest details. These choices determine how we relate to the world. So understanding our style is tantamount to understanding how we see the world around us.

In a sense, our world is a reflection of our communication style.

Communication styles are a manifestation of our personalities. But they are not the same. Scholars and researchers agree that personality is relatively stable, changing only subtly over time. Our style of communicating, on the other hand, is a learned behavior. We can modify it once we learn how. In fact, skilled communicators can modify their style on the spot, as the situation warrants. Just like reading a book, hitting a baseball, or diving into the pool, modifying your communication style is a skill. It doesn’t come naturally. But once you learn it, it’s a skill you can use all your life.

Why learn to modify your communication style?

After all, shouldn’t you be content to be who you are? That’s a reasonable argument. But your world consists of many different types of people — including colleagues, bosses, employees, and customers — and it’s to your advantage to understand exactly where they’re all coming from.

At the same time, people have a basic need to feel understood, to feel listened to. When people perceive you as a competent communicator, when they know your understand their thoughts and feelings, something magical happens. People begin to look to you for leadership. They pay more attention to you, knowing that you respect them. In other words, there’s a bonus that comes with understanding communication styles. It elevates all your relationships to a higher plane.

For managers and leaders, understanding communication styles is an indispensable skill. It enables them to translate differences in what people say. It enables them to mediate conflicts. And it paves the way for successful discussions about complex subjects. It’s a truism that leaders and managers must be good communicators. But there’s a difference between being articulate, which is what books about communication typically teach, and knowing the tools of straight talk.


Lesson 2: What It Means to Be a Competent Communicator Lesson 4: Identifying Communication Styles

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