“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
Assuming you’re working a full-time job and you put aside 8 hours for a good night’s sleep, you’re actually spending half of your waking hours at the office. Add up the time spent commuting and you get more than half. With that much time spent among work colleagues, it would be a wasted opportunity not to learn how to effectively communicate with them and make them your second family. Here’s why and how you should do it.
Why do we communicate?
To cram years and years of sociolinguistic studies in a paragraph is an impossible task. So we’ll keep it short. In the words of Aristotle: “Man is by nature a social animal”. We constantly seek human contact and interaction. Without it, individuals can develop serious mental problems.
Leaving the philosophical part aside, communication is simply passing messages from one individual to another, either in written, verbal, or non-verbal form. It happens in all aspects of our lives, be it our personal or professional one. We even talk to ourselves, usually in our heads, but sometimes aloud too. At the office, we talk about work, tasks, procedures, processes, meetings etc. And we also gab about our lives, our colleagues, management, the new coffee shop, or weekend plans. Both are equally important in our relationships.
Since it’s 100% in our lives, we might as well do it properly.
Importance of effective communication
In the matter of organizational communication, sending the right information across (and making sure it reached the recipient as such) is vital to the success of the business. Faulty dissemination of data can lead to the company being damaged internally, as well as having its bottom line affected. This is especially visible when the news that’s being shared is not the best. Efficient business communicators know how to balance sending out bad news as skillfully as the good ones.
When it comes to our interpersonal relationships, conversations should be equally adequate and harmonious. Most of the dissension among co-workers is usually the result of miscommunication or, more often, a total lack of it. We either don’t know how to listen, can’t get past our selfishness and we build our entire discourse on it, or we’re simply buried under too many channels (e.g. phones, mails, chats, software boards, actual boards, notebooks, post-its, social media, and so on). Any reason obstructing proper communication is actually impeding healthy, positive relationships and should be tackled with.
To get a general idea of how important effective communication is, let’s take the example of the healthcare sector. Decisions made here are literally a matter of life and death for the patient. And those decisions are made based on the information exchanged between doctor and patient, doctor and nurse, nurse and patient, doctor and patient’s family etc. There’s no room for error. It’s all about effective teamwork and communication.
Maybe it would help if we treated each encounter as if our lives depended on it. After all, it does, it’s just our social life that we’re talking about, rather than our physical existence.
Benefits of effective communication
We’ve already touched the subject of the positive outcome that effective communication has. It’s a pillar of a successful company, and of constructive, fruitful personal relationships. Productivity, adaptability, development, prosperity, harmony – these are all results of solid, balanced, clear-cut communication.
To these, we must add the importance of meeting an individual’s communication needs. As discussed in another part of this series, one of the sought after benefits lately is a sense of purpose and belonging. Since corporate communication and culture are interconnected, companies should, without a doubt, invest in training programmes and courses designed to improve verbal and writing skills. This is, in fact, one of the issues that HR is confronting recently. The benefit? Skilled workers, loyal to their company, thriving together in a peaceful, blooming atmosphere.
Methods of communication in the workplace
In order to decide what methods are best to apply in a certain work setting, one must first assess said setting. There are multiple factors to consider for effective communication at the workplace. Think of cultural differences, age gaps, rank variation, but also take into consideration the preferred communication channel, environment conditions (lighting, noise level, temperature etc.), or availability of targeted audience.
Another thing to have in mind is the communication style exhibited by the person (or persons) you’re preparing to talk with. If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty, you’ll find that various scientists defined communication styles differently. For example, Carl Jung named them “Thinker, Feeler, Intuitor, and Sensor”. But on a more general note, a communication style is simply how open that person is to conversation. One aspect of effective communication is recognizing the style and matching it.
Communication can take a lot of forms. It can be formal or informal, verbal, non-verbal, or written, it can be narrowed down to one-to one or expanded to group communication, it can be carried face to face or through technological devices, and so on and so forth. The range of communication methods and strategies is wide and a great number of combinations is possible. They can even be categorized by the conversation stage they’re being used for. You can have conversation starters, fuelers, closers. There are even strategies to clarify misunderstandings or ways to maintain confidentiality in day to day communication.
A company is very similar to a beehive – constantly buzzing, ever-changing, teeming with workers. Naturally, different communication methods are used in the business environment, at different times and in different situations. The trick is to constantly develop everyone’s communication skills; luckily, it’s a trick that can be learned.