The way we communicate to others is important. Miscommunication can cause confusion, damage a relationship or delay a time-sensitive project. I’m by no means an expert in communication but I try to be mindful about the way I communicate, the way others communicate, and the way people respond.
Here are a few things I practice to improve my communication between others.
Give Credit Before Criticism
I’ve learned that the instinct of most people, including myself, is to be defensive in the face of criticism. Being defensive is a biological response. Just as a mother would defend a child against physical harm, the mind will defend the ego from mental harm.
Before I give criticism, I usually thank someone for their time and let them know what I liked about whatever they have provided. This is by no means a practice I came up with. A study published in the American Behavior Scientist found that the highest performing teams received almost six pieces of ‘praise’ before criticism. We often hear to give ‘praise’ before criticism. To me, ‘praise’ sounds superficial or even forced. Instead, I’d rather give and receive ‘credit’, something that is earned and respected.
Pick up the phone
Have you ever found yourself in a never ending loop of an email thread that leaves all parties involved confused? Unless a problem is easy to communicate and resolve, it probably deserves a phone call. There is so much more that can be communicated and understood by talking with someone. Somethings are hard to communicate over an email, especially in IT where someone may not entirely understand the problem they are having or the solution they are looking for.
As a society we are anxious about using our phones for the original purpose they were designed! Maybe people don’t want to be caught off guard and they would rather have the time to collect their thoughts before engaging. This use to be my thought! Sometimes I don’t know the answer, but I always understand the problem better after a phone call.
It’s a fundamental I learned from years of customer service and I use it whenever I remember. If I’ve helped someone recently with a problem or answered a question, I remind myself to reach out to them again. It is usually as simple as ‘Just wanted to make sure that you were not having and issue with this anymore’ or ‘let me know if my request makes sense, I am more than happy to clarify anything you need.’ Following up can improve any communication relationship. It lets people know that they’re concerns, issues, and time is important to you.
Losada, Marcial and Emily Heaphy. “The Role of Positivity and Connectivity in the Performance of Business Teams: A Nonlinear Dynamics Model”. American Behavioral Scientist Vol, Issue 6, pp. 740 – 765. First Published February 1, 2004 https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764203260208