Hey friends! A brand-spanking shiny New Year is just around the corner, and right now you are probably settling on a New Year’s Resolution to kick it off. Since we are all human and similarly flawed, the same types of resolutions seem to surface every year– things like losing weight, getting organized, etc. You get it.
But let’s have a little fun, shall we?
Let’s add a Communication Resolution to whatever we resolve to do better in 2020!
Better communication is something we humans sorely need AND need to keep improving on year after year. It gets tougher, too, as new forms of communication emerge.
So scroll on down, find your current New Year’s Resolution (or front runner if you haven’t decided yet), and upgrade that baby to a new-and-improved resolution that includes a challenge for improving your communication skills.
Here we go!
If you want to… GET ACTIVE, then also…DO MORE ACTIVE LISTENING
So many times when we’re having a conversation, we’re not even really listening to the other person. In fact, we’re so busy crafting our response, we don’t hear the message they are trying to get across. Active listening is a five part process to overcome this bad habit, and it looks like this:
- Engage – really pay attention (put down your phone and focus!)
- Suspend Opinion – don’t interrupt and don’t form opinions based on the first 2-3 words
- Listen – be attentive to both the spoken and unspoken message
- Restate – ensure you got the message right with the classic “so what I think I heard you say is…”
- Respond – only after the above 4 steps take place can a truly useful discussion begin
If you want to… LOSE WEIGHT, then… FILL UP ON FEEDBACK
Have you ever sent an email and not gotten a response? Me, too! Have you ever received an email that you should have responded to and didn’t? Yeah, me, too.
Feedback is so important! It’s the only way we know that our communication is truly being received and acted upon. Giving and receiving feedback can be challenging when you are dealing with digital communication, although many programs like Microsoft Teams have mechanisms built into them to encourage feedback (raising hands, chat, etc.) Here are some tips for encouraging feedback in your communications.
- Give a deadline. If you need a response for something, put a deadline on it. Deadlines give weight to communications. As the deadline approaches, send out a reminder.
- Dialogue back and forth. One-way communication may not be communication at all! Make sure there is some back and forth.
- Change it up. If one form of communication isn’t working (i.e. email), you might need to try something different. Maybe this person responds better to text. Maybe you need to walk down the hall and catch them at their desk. Maybe a phone call is in order.
- Give the benefit of the doubt. Most of the time people aren’t ignoring you on purpose. They are busy. They are overwhelmed. They are (fill in the blank with something that’s not about you). When you finally do corner them into communicating with you, try not be accusatory. “Hey, I just wanted to check…” is a much better way to approach them than “So, you never got back to me on…”
If you want to… UNPLUG FROM ELECTRONICS, then also… TUNE IN TO YOUR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”– Peter Drucker.
93% of communication is non-verbal. 55% of that is body language and 38% is paralinguistics (tone, loudness, inflection and pitch). Charles Darwin actually started research into nonverbal communication in 1872 with his paper “The Expressions of the Emotions in Men & Animals.” My point is, it’s about more than just the words we say. Learning how to express and also read these cues can raise your emotional intelligence and help you better communicate with all types of people in all types of situations from all walks of life.
If you want to… DE-CLUTTER YOUR SPACE, then also… CLEAN UP YOUR COMMUNICATION
What if you aren’t the best at this whole “communication” thing? What if you blow it? Say the wrong thing? Have a hard time controlling your emotions? Don’t worry, you can come back from this.
When something is said in anger or is poorly received, most people respond in one of three ways: fight, flight or freeze. They’ll either come back just as hard, shut down completely, or get a “deer in the headlights” look on their face. Sometimes this can happen in meetings that aren’t run properly, or meetings with the wrong people in the room.The best thing you can do if YOU are the one who made the faux pas is to apologize right away. Show humility. Admit if you made a mistake. Most people will respond to an honest, authentic apology, and you’ll be able to build back any trust you lost. Warning: people will see through phoniness, so make sure if you say you’re sorry, you actually mean it.
If you feel yourself losing your cool in a situation, practice recognizing the signs that you are escalating emotionally and takes steps to bring yourself back down before you say something you regret. Learning more about emotional intelligence can help with this as well.
If you want to… LIVE WITH MORE PURPOSE, then also… COMMUNICATE CONSCIENTIOUSLY
Conscientious Communication is about taking responsibility for what you do and don’t say. I teach a class on communication where we go over the top communication blockers, which typically fall into one of five categories:
- Semantics – homophones, homonyms & homographs
- Organizational – culture, policies, hierarchy/structure
- Psychological or Emotional
- Personal – age, health, culture, education, geographical
- Physical – distance, technology, weather, time zones
Being able to recognize and manage these impediments to communication will launch you into rock star status in the communications department! Which leads me to my last resolution…
If you want to… HELP OTHERS MORE, then also… BE A COMMUNICATION MENTOR
Learn about active listening, emotional intelligence, nonverbal communication, and communication blockers, and then use your knowledge for good by helping others in your workplace and personal life. If you see someone struggling in a meeting, be the one who steps in and diffuses the situation. Or teach a communication skill privately to someone who needs it. Model nonverbal communication that enhances rather than impedes understanding. You know those people who can give you bad news, but you still walk away feeling hopeful, empowered and understood? Be that person.
Whatever New Year’s Resolution you choose, let’s all resolve to make the world a better place… for talking, texting, and whatever the future holds!
About the Author
Glenn Thomas, PMP®, CSM, is a Project Manager and Trainer with Solarity, helping our clients achieve their strategic goals by assessing their current situation, defining their desired future state, and then acting upon an approved plan to help them reach their desired outcomes. Before joining Solarity, Glenn served as the Director of IT Governance for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He is a member of both the global organization & local chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI)®, and has served on the Board of the PMI Bluegrass Chapter as a past President and VP of Communications. Glenn possesses a wealth of experience and knowledge in Project Management, Strategic Planning, and Governance, and we are excited for him to be a part of our team.
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