February 11, 2020
Good communication is one of the most critical skills students need when entering the workforce. Your ability to impress and interact with the interviewer, your boss, customers, and coworkers is vital to your success. Without this skill, you may have difficulty sharing information, processing feedback, giving presentations, or working in teams. These are all vital in today’s workforce. Communication occurs when two or more people share information, ideas, or feelings and reach a mutual understanding.
The first part of the definition above seems somewhat obvious: sharing information. An instructor demonstrates to a student how to complete a task such as writing a resume, a spouse tells the other spouse how he or she is feeling about a fight, or two business partners discuss their goals regarding a joint venture. Information is shared in each example.
That’s all very important, but communication does not truly occur unless the second part occurs as well: all parties involved must come to mutual understanding of what that information means. You’ve probably heard the phrase “a failure to communicate.” It means at least one person doesn’t understand the other. Communication has not occurred if you don’t understand your instructor, or if your spouse’s words are lost on you, or if the business partners cannot understand each other’s goals.
Communicating well is a skill like carpentry or mathematics. It takes practice and can be improved over time. Below is a process to help you communicate effectively. Keep it in mind each time you communicate with someone during an important conversation. Practice it when you can.
If you can do these five things, you probably have communicated successfully and understand each other.
State your information/goals/needs clearly and succinctly.
If you do not do this, the critical information may not reach the other person and he or she will be confused. This is true in relationships as well as business settings. If you do not like something your significant other is doing, you will need to explain. If a coworker or an employee is not getting the job done properly, you need to effectively explain what he or she is doing wrong and how to improve.
Listen actively when the other person is speaking. Understand what the person is saying and why he or she is saying it. If you know the person is mad at you—or you know something is an important step in a process—but you don’t know why, you have not understood what the person has said.
Active listening is an important skill you will hear much about in college. It involves focusing on what is being said, understanding it, and responding. Not all communication is about talking. In fact, most of it is about listening.
To go back to the business example above: Your employee may have followed the proper instructions, but there may be another reason the work is not getting done properly. If you’re not hearing that reason, then you’re the issue, not the employee. You need to be willing to listen actively to those around you to ensure you have a full understanding of the situation.
Repeat back what you hear
In your own words, repeat what the other person has said.
You can do this verbally or mentally, depending on the situation. This will help to ensure you understand what the person has said and have not missed anything. It is often helpful to say something like, “What I am hearing is that you’re unhappy with my behavior yesterday, is that correct? Because I was late and did not call ahead.” This shows you’re listening, but also checks to make sure you’re understanding. This is particularly important in potentially tense situations such as a fight with a friend or a disagreement with your co-worker.
Ask clarifying questions
Ask questions to ensure nothing has been missed. Ask why certain things are important. Given the example above, you may say, “Just so I understand better, can you clarify why it was a problem that I was running late? Or were you just frustrated that I did not warn you?” You may think something is not a priority, but if you ask questions to better understand the situation, you may learn something you did not know.
Focus on common goals
State your common goals and interests and decide on a plan to enact them. When you’re having difficulty communicating, or even when things are going well, it is often a good idea to restate your shared goals with the other person. You may say, “Well, we may not agree on the problem just yet, but we both agree that we want this to be a success.
It’s important to both of us. I assure you that we’ll get this figured out.” This will put you on solid ground to either build a plan to go forward or further explore the disagreement and understand where the breakdown in understanding has occurred.
Ahmed Sheikh has a deep understanding of marketing and sales and has been involved in providing content support in SAP, ERP, Big data Analytics, IoT, and Cloud areas.