We all know that communication is a two way process. I use language that I know will engage you, you signal to me that you are interested and listening, you ask the right questions, I pause in the right places and so on. It works when we understand each other or at least demonstrate that we are keen to learn to understand each other. Good communication skills do not only involve giving the message but helping the listener to decode and respond to the message more easily.
So what happens when our communication styles and expectations are clearly different? Everyone has different preferences when it comes to how they like to communicate. These preferences can include the level of directness, use of body language, mode of communication, how much information is shared and even the time and place of communication. It is tempting to stick to our natural style and to communicate in the way that comes most easily to us but we need to remember that most work related communication has an expected outcome; we need to convince the other person or need them to do something for us. We need a result and to get the best and quickest outcome we should consider adapting our communication style in order to engender most positive response from our counterparts.
Keep the following considerations in mind when you are communicating at work and you should find the results are more positive.
Timing is crucial. If you know that the other person is busy or not in the best of moods it may better to wait for the right moment rather than interrupt them with a tricky or complicated message.
Method of communication. Your choice is often down to the type of message you need to convey but when you can, consider the personal preference of the receiver. Also, bear in mind, if you have a non-urgent request, an email is often better and the reader can act on it when they are ready. Delicate messages are usually much better conveyed face-to-face or if not by phone as emails can so often be misconstrued.
Level of Directness. You will find that some of your colleagues prefer straight talking and are frustrated if you ‘beat around the bush’ while others are comfortable with a more indirect approach and prefer potentially negative messages to be softened.
Level of Context. Some people are ‘big picture’ and need to know the whole story with all the background before they can understand and action what is needed. Others take a more expedient approach; they prefer a short and sweet instruction and are then happy to get on with it.
Location. Some of your colleagues will be more or less comfortable with having potential sensitive or challenging discussions in public places or shared office space.
Building awareness of your own communication style and preferences is the first step in more successful communication but many organisation provide communication skills training and coaching programmes to help their employees to adapt their communication style – and be more successful in their roles.