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Six fundamental questions to ask yourself to improve your communications style

Six fundamental questions to ask yourself to improve your communications style

1.What am I trying to say? Know your outcome!

Make sure you are clear about the information or message you are trying to convey. Practise an outcome focused approach. What is it you want to say? Are you clear? When communicating be precise and succinct. Remember, fewer words are better than too many.

2.What impact do I want to create on other people?

Make sure the words you choose are going to support your message. Are your words reflecting the message you want to give? Think anger, control, logic, mature, passion etc – be clear about what you want to achieve from your message – a reaction, agreement or a decision?

3.Am I sticking to the facts?

Make sure the information you are providing is accurate and not unduly influenced too much by a personal agenda – unless a technical opinion or some form of personal disclosure is essential to helping you achieve your objective. In cases where you want people to act, remember that they may only be able to make a decision if they have all the facts. Check whether you are providing the facts to help them understand your position or argument.

4. Can I deliver on my commitments?

When faced with difficult or time pressurized situations we might be tempted to promise something to win people over to our side of an argument. But remember that any subsequent failure to deliver on hard promises given will generate real disappointment and ultimately erode trust – and trust is one of the fundamentals of good communication. So if you are providing any commitments remember that you must be committed to deliver them.

5. Am I prepared to follow up?

In any effective working relationship effective communications must be an ongoing process and not an isolated or intermittent activity. So be prepared to answer or follow up on any questions or issues that might have been raised with you. Learn to accept questions and queries as feedback and commit to dealing with them.

6. Am I consistent and credible?

If you are new to a management position then a degree of distance from your team can often result. In some instances it may be a good thing to keep a certain distance, after all you are now the boss and some people will view you differently. But at all times be consistent and honest in your communications with people. Stick to your commitments and avoid double dealing. Be fair and credible in your communications and you will find that trust will follow.

Remember we all have a tremendous capacity to receive messages in different ways. We are all influenced by personalities, values, and assump­tions. So take time to check out that people have really understood what you have communicated. With flatter and more matrix type corporate structures effective communication is more important than ever. It is vital that we get it right and ensure that we communicate and listen with equal measure.

Communications checklist

When communicating with others do:

  • Make strong eye contact – it demonstrates trust, honesty and shows interest. Try to identify the colour of peoples’ eyes at a first contact or handshake. But avoid staring as that is threat­ening. A failure to make eye contact can lead people to make lots of assumptions about you, e.g. he is shy, lacks confidence, is arrogant or even lying etc etc – all from a failure to connect the eyes.
  • Check your understanding of what has been said by summa­rizing, paraphrasing or reflecting back to the speaker. Use expressions such as, “If I have understood you correctly you are saying the system cannot work because of x – have I under­stood you correctly?” This is a critical skill to becoming a good listener.
  • Make sure your body language and tone of voice reflect genuine interest – try leaning towards the speaker and responding with a questioning or reflective tone of voice. Avoid negative or distant body language if you want to show a real interest.
  • Convey enthusiasm in your voice when necessary – adjusting your physiology – the way you are sitting or standing can very easily adjust your vocal tone.
  • Listen for any feelings as well as facts in what is being said. Some of us only listen for the facts or data – which may account for only 20% of the problem or issue. Try to pick up any emotional element to the speaker – are they passionate or angry?

When communicating don’t:

  • Interrupt the other person as they are talking.
  • Finish off the end of their sentences.
  • Let your mind wander during the discussion.
  • Spend listening time thinking about your next question – focus on the speaker and what they are saying.
  • Focus on just one element of the discussion and miss the main part of the message.

Remember the facts about communication

  • About 80% of our waking hours are spent communicating. We spend approximately 45% of this time listening.
  •  In meetings we tend to spend about 60-70 % of our time listening.
  • After a ten minute presentation we only hear, understand, evaluate and retain approximately 50% of what is said. After 48 hours this can fall to as little as 25%.
  •  Remember, our listening habits are not the result of training but rather the lack of it.
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