How do you communicate effectively?
Effective communication is about more than exchanging information; it’s also about understanding the emotion and intention behind the information.
Effective communication helps us to understand people and situations, and enables us to avoid or resolve differences, build trust and respect, and create environments where creative ideas, problem solving, and effective businesses can flourish.
Ineffective communication may cause conflict and frustration in personal and professional relationships.
Effective communication is achieved through a combination of many skills including effective listening, effective speaking, and effective presentation and giving constructive feedback. It also depends on an empathetic approach.
Effective listeners need to learn to ask the right questions, listen actively and provide constructive feedback. Asking the right questions means using both open and probing questions.
Open questions are general and allow people to respond in a number of ways, or take the conversation where they want it to go, and encourage them to talk freely.
- How do you feel things have gone this month?
- How do you feel about that?
- Why do you think that happened?
Probing questions dig for more specific information on events and the reasons for them. They indicate support and encourage provision of information about feelings and attitudes, they can “reflect back” and check understanding.
- That’s interesting. Can you tell me more?
- How important is that to you?
- Just to confirm, do you mean that ….?
A good listener should:
- Concentrate on the speaker
- Be aware of behavior, body language and intonations.
- Respond when necessary but not interrupt.
- Ask relevant questions to clarify meaning.
- Demonstrate understanding by making short comments such as “I see “.
Providing feedback is a skill that managers need to learn and practice. Feedback is best if based on facts, not subjective opinion, and should be backed up with evidence and examples.
Feedback can be used to help employees understand the impact of their actions and behavior. It is most effective when used positively to reinforce good points and identify opportunities for further positive action. But occasionally corrective action may be needed.
Feedback works best when:
Events are described rather than judged.
E.g. “X became upset when Y was said “Is a description rather than a judgment such as “you upset X by saying Y “.
- It is accompanied by questions asking why, in the individual’s opinion, certain things happened.
- It is related to actual events, and observed actions.
- Understanding is reached about what went wrong,
The action decided is to correct the problem not apportion blame.
People accept feedback better when they are encouraged to work round to their own conclusions about what happened and why.