Communication Skills – First Steps in Communicating Effectively

Dr. Purushothaman
October 9, 2013

Competence with communication skills is essential in the workplace. By competence we mean working at how you communicate, so that you get better and better at communicating effectively with all of those people with whom you interact.

The Need for Communication Skills in the Workplace
Outside of work, relationships are different. You can choose your relationships. You can build a relationship with someone you like, or with whom you share common interests. You are communicating with like-minded people, on topics on which you have common ground. If things go wrong, you can walk away. For the most part, you do not have that choice in the workplace.

In business, you need to build good communication skills so that you can build a positive working relationship with anyone. You will work with all sorts of different people, and they will be at different levels in the working world. The word 'like' becomes irrelevant, as you must communicate with people whether you like them or not.

What is Meant by Communicating Effectively?
It is really important to think about the meaning of communicating effectively. How would you define it? Perhaps that the words are said clearly? Maybe that the message simple and in language that should be understood? These definitions are all about the sender. Communicating effectively is about the other person. It is about the result, about the outcome.

Did you achieve the purpose of the communication? Did the other person understand? Did they accept what you were saying? Did they agree? If the answer is no, then it does not matter how beautifully you said it, the communication was NOT effective.

Think of the waiter who leaves a very hot plate down in front of the diner. He says, do not touch that plate, it is very hot. What happens next? Ninety per cent of people will touch the hot plate! The waiter will go away thinking, another stupid person! This communication was ineffective, it did not work. The goal was to stop the diner from touching the hot plate, and the result was that he touched it.

Think in Terms of Goals and Plans
The first step in communicating effectively is to learn to think in terms of goals and desired outcomes. What is your goal here? What result do you want? The next step is to think, how can I achieve that result? What is my plan?

If the plan does not work, don't keep repeating it! It didn't work the first time, why should it work the second, or third? Think of a new plan. In the example above, what could the waiter try to stop the diner from touching the plate? Well, he could try using positive rather than negative language. He could say, be sure to keep your hands away from the plate, as it is very hot. There is a good chance that this will work, but if it does not, he can try something else.

Communicating effectively is about learning different methods of communicating to achieve a positive result.

People are Different
Those who have difficulty communicating effectively are often assuming that everyone is like them. It is common sense to the poor communicator that the other person ought to have understood them, because if they had been receiving this message, they would have understood.

Everyone is not like you. In fact, only about twenty percent of the population are like you. The other eighty per cent are different. The trick is to learn about other people, and about all the other different types of people. What works with one, may not work with another. Certain types of people like to be spoken to in soft, gentle language style, with lots of social interaction. That approach will definitely not work with another type of person who likes fast, direct language with no waffles. These folk like to get straight to the bottom line.

Learning to communicate effectively is about learning how to use different communication skills and styles, to achieve the right outcome with different people.

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