Last week's column highlighted three of the seven most common communication errors, as well as techniques that can improve communication between people. The first two begin with the end in mind and the importance of listening first and speaking second. Here are five more:
Never assume you have someone's full attention, because most people have a multitude of thought and ideas flowing through their mind at any one time. Their mental "noise" consists of everything that distracts them including noise in the literal sense, physical or emotional discomfort, personal problems, negative attitudes, or distracting mannerisms. This is why gaining attention — earning attention — is an important prerequisite for effective communication.
Present with brevity
Oscar Wilde was quoted as saying "Brevity is the soul of wit." It's also the soul of effective business presentations. Whether you are delivering a keynote address, presenting a proposal to a prospective customer, or introducing yourself to a new employee, the essence of clear communication is brevity.
When you commit yourself to concise, succinct communication it forces you to think through your most important points and to present them without a lot of "fluff" or extraneous information. We're living in the age of 30-second commercials and instant communication through technology; most people expect you to make a point pretty quickly, then move on to your next point.
This means a lot more than just asking "Do you understand?" In fact, you can always assume that when you ask employees directly if they understand you, the answer will be "yes" whether or not they really do understand. And you can assume the same thing of customers, because sometimes they don't know they don't understand.
Understanding and accepting your message are two very different things. An employee may fully understand the basis of your criticism, or a customer may accurately comprehend the logic of your proposal. But that doesn't mean they accept what you have presented. And again, asking "Do you agree?" isn't an effective method, although that is essentially the information you're after.
Genuine acceptance of a concept presented by management, or by another worker, goes a long way toward ensuring active participation, and harmonious cooperation, in the workplace.
Wrap up your communication with a specific "call to action." This is the moment where you propel your abstract ideas or theoretical knowledge into the world of reality. Good ideas that aren't translated into some sort of action rarely last. And in most cases the action should be two-sided (remember, communication is reciprocal) so you've got to do you're part as well as ask others to do theirs.
Your first exposure to these ideas may seem a little overwhelming at first, but you'll find that if you focus on them one at a time, letting yourself improve your communication efforts gradually, you'll eventually develop an exceptional ability to communicate in a clear, concise and relevant manner you can be proud of.
Jan Kantor is a Southwest Florida business consultant and executive coach. For more information, or to contact him regarding workplace solutions, his website is www.jankantor.com.