Every day we encounter hundreds of communications — some verbal, some written, and some without saying anything at all. Communications should be a two-way street, but are you observing all the signs, signals, obstacles, twists and turns?
One of the challenges with communication is that everyone has their own style, their own perceptions, and their own life experiences that factor into how interactions are interpreted.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in an American Management Association workshop on using results-oriented communications to build better professional relationships.
One of the workshop attendees thought he had positive relationships with his team members, but feedback from a 360 review proved otherwise. While he thought he was getting the job done by making quick decisions, his team felt that he didn’t consider input from others — even when he asked for their opinion. They also thought he was abrupt in emails and phone communications.
Another attendee shared that one of his/her team members, an engineer, preferred not to be interrupted by questions during a presentation because he would ultimately address most of them by the time he finished. To me, this is a great example of understanding others’ communication styles to facilitate better working relationships.
Below are my top three takeaways for improving your professional communications:
- Work on being a better listener
When you interact with colleagues, clients, or family, give them your full attention and practice active listening:
- Clear your mind: Focus on the current conversation
- Avoid interrupting others: Let them finish their thoughts
- Ask clarifying questions: Jot them down while others are speaking, if necessary
- Summarize what you heard: Make sure everyone is on the same page so there’s no confusion
- Take appropriate action to maintain relationships
Analyze some of your workplace or personal interactions and think about how you might have handled them differently to achieve better outcomes. Then, try applying some of these best practices for seeking or giving feedback:
- Plan questions to facilitate information gathering
- Make sure to clearly establish expectations of conversations
- Avoid becoming defensive if others disagree with you
- Learn to tactfully agree to disagree to achieve business or personal goals
- Use communication to build rapport and trust
Recognize that everyone has different communication styles. Take the time to learn the styles of people you communicate with on a regular basis.
- Identify common areas of interest to break the ice
- Mirror/match communication style in conversations
- Recognize nonverbal cues, such as nodding one’s head (interest), crossed arms (defensiveness), and physically backing away (not a good time)
While some of the ideas and techniques the workshop covered may seem obvious, when you take a deeper look at communications you’ve had — either positive or negative — you might find a few areas for improvement.
Accepting and understanding your responsibility in communicating with others will go a long way in improving personal and professional relationships. Change takes time, but improving your communication skills will be worth the effort.
Angela Brock is a Client Engagement Manager at DemandGen. She works directly with clients to help advance their business needs, develop long-range marketing plans, and drive ongoing success with their marketing initiatives. Angela is Marketo Certified and she is an Eloqua Product and RPM Master.