The Communication Question

Gauri Chhabra
Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican national convention has been quite in news- for reasons both right and wrong. It was ridiculed for being failing in Communication as it appeared to have been lifted verbatim from a speech Michelle Obama delivered at the 2008 Democratic convention. However, the Trump campaign has denied accusations of plagiarism. Whatever happens next, we have lessons to learn. When it comes to communication- be original.
Clichéd as it may sound, Communication is key. We all tend to think we’re pretty good at it. Truth is, even those of us who are good communicators aren’t nearly as good as we think we are. This overestimation of our ability to communicate is magnified when interacting with people we know well. Our problem in communicating with friends is that we have an illusion of insight. When communicating with people we know well, we make presumptions about what they understand—presumptions that we don’t dare make with strangers. This tendency to overestimate how well we communicate is so prevalent that psychologists even have a name for it: closeness-communication bias.
Now, the question arises- what is essential for effective communication at work place?
Here are some questions that you need to answer, some choices you need to make before calling yourself effective communicators:
Long winded or straight?
Hit the headline first. Too many of us are just plain long-winded. People don’t need to know everything we know. Think about what the single most important point is that you need to make, the central idea. If your computer died or the fire alarm went off, what would be the one thing they needed to hear? It is absolutely critical to be as direct, to the point and concise as possible. Vagueness is all too common in the workplace and you easily remedy it by following the newscaster’s drill of spelling out who, what, where, when and why.
When to be silent?
However great a communicator you might be- it is best to know when to be silent. If you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all. Don’t talk about other people. That identifies you as a gossip and someone who can’t be trusted. You may think you’re being entertaining or engendering closeness, but you meet the same people on the way up as on the way down.
What channel to use?
While it is important to communicate well, it is also equally imperative to know which channel to use. No bull. If you have bad news to deliver, lay it out plainly. It’s difficult to talk about layoffs and belt tightening, but if you’re in a situation where you have to convey that sort of information, your employees and colleagues likely already know something is up. It is far better to be straight with them than not to communicate at all, even if you can’t give them the answers they’d like.
Always deliver bad news in person. It may seem easier to convey negative information via e-mail, but imagine how you’d feel if you learned electronically that your best work friend had been sacked, vs. hearing it from another human being.
Groups or individuals?
Well, while peaking to groups, treat them as individual. Whether a small team meeting or a company-wide gathering, you need to develop a level of intimacy in your approach that makes each individual in the room feel as if you’re speaking directly to him or her. The trick is to eliminate the distraction of the crowd so that you can deliver your message just as you would if you were talking to a single person. You want to be emotionally genuine and exude the same feelings, energy, and attention you would one-on-one as opposed to the anxiety that comes with being in front of people. The ability to pull this off is the hallmark of great communication.
Content or emotions?
Compelling communicators don’t strong-arm people into paying attention or dazzle listeners by showing off how much they know. Leave your ego at the door when speaking to people. Establish an even playing field, and place yourself at the same level with your listeners. Avoid a condescending tone of voice and terminology your audience will not immediately understand. While you may be the smartest, most knowledgeable person on a particular topic, wait for the invitation to share your expertise.
Speaking or listening?
One of the most disastrous temptations for a leader is to treat communication as a one-way street. When you communicate, you must give people ample opportunity to speak their minds. If you find that you’re often having the last word in conversations, then this is likely something you need to work on. Listening isn’t just about hearing words; it’s also about listening to the tone, speed, and volume of the voice. What is being said? Anything not being said? What hidden messages below the surface exist? When someone is talking to you, stop everything else and listen fully until the other person has finished speaking. When you’re meeting with someone, close the door and sit near the person so you can focus and listen.
Active listening is a simple technique that ensures people feel heard, an essential component of good communication. To practice active listening spend more time listening than you do talking and do not answer questions with questions.
Simple behaviors like these will help you stay in the present moment, pick up on the cues the other person sends, and make it clear that you will really hear what the other person is saying.
Words or body language?
The greatest wealth of information lies in your body language. The body communicates nonstop and is an abundant source of information, so purposefully watch body language during meetings and casual conversation. It’s not just your words that convey a message. “It’s all of you.” If you slouch, jam your hands into your pockets, shuffle your feet and avoid eye contact, people will get the impression you don’t want to communicate with them. Pry your eyes and thumbs away from your electronic devices. Pretend that your colleague is your adorable five-year-old who you would drop everything for if she walked into the office.
Once you tune into body language, the messages will become loud and clear.
A negative Nellie?
Don’t be a naysayer. Even if you think your colleague or boss is completely wrong about something, you can counter with an open-ended question that shows respect and a can-do spirit. One possible response: “Have you had a situation where that strategy worked?
You can learn from the answer to that, and not be a negative Nellie.
Summing up:
As you work to employ these strategies, try to avoid biting off more than you can chew. If you try to take on more than you can handle, you’re not going to see as much progress as you would if you narrowed your focus. Once you become effective in one particular strategy, you can take on another one in its place.
So, communication is paramount to your success- Trump seems to have realized it and has finally hired a Communication Director!


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