The Most Common Mistake in Communicating with Your Colleagues May Not Be What You Think! How Well Do You Know Yourself?
Ironically, verbal Communications is less about talking and more about listening and modification. Let me explain.
While coaching for a talent management firm in Atlanta, I worked alongside a coach which I was having a conversation with one day. And he looked at me and said, “Parker, you talk too much.” I sat there for a moment and not wanting to be disrespectful, as he was 30 plus years older than I was, I responded, “Well, you bore me”. I chuckled to make light of what I said.
He asked me why I said that. I responded by telling him that when I ask him questions his responses are typically with a one-word response, with no further engagement, at all. It was obvious that I was an extrovert, who loves to talk, and he was an introvert, who loves to listen.
You can only guess that that was not the first time I had ever heard that statement. It wasn’t; however, it was the first time I got it! That day the light bulb came on. I thought that being a good communicator was being a good talker, when in reality, a good communicator is also a good listener. It’s about balance.
If you don’t listen to others, then what you actually say may have less meaning because it’s not addressing the conversation correctly. There are those who listen and there are those who wait to talk. Which one are you?
Listening is the key to better communications in business. When you listen, you can respond with answers that are appropriate and thought-out. A skill that good listeners often use is “active listening”. If you do not understand a question someone asks, you can reiterate the question as you heard it to ensure that you provide the right response.
For example, you might reiterate a question by saying something to this effect of, “So, are you asking me my philosophy on providing quality customer service and how it affects the bottom line of an organization in relationship to a customer service representative or to the actual installers of the products?”
This type feedback lets the other person know that you are listening because you chose to clarify the question instead of assuming what you thought you heard. Avoid doing this all the time, as it will lose its validity. For example, how many times have you called a company’s customer service to ask a simple question such as, “What is my installation date for my cable?” And their response is something like, “Okay, so, you are calling today to find out the date of your installation.”
I always want to respond by saying, “No, I want to know the date of my installation for my cable”. But I digress. Only gain clarification if it is needed.
Being an effective communicator is also not necessarily about what you say, but how you say it that is important. As we discussed in our blog on “Do You Walk the Talk?”, Albert Mehrabian stated that 38% of how we communicate our attitude is with our tone, and 7% contributes by the words that we use. So, when we talk about verbal communication, as you can see, it’s not just about isolating words or sentences. There is much more to verbal communication .
From the C-Suite to entry level employees, the biggest problems that most corporations struggle with today is communications, or lack thereof. If communication is not clear in the very beginning about any topic, misunderstandings can worsen, creating havoc; however, on the other hand, when communicating clearly and succinctly, many issues within a team or company can be easily dissolved.
Clear communications ensure that expectations are set into play. To make this possible, there is a process. First, you need to identify your communication style preferences. This identity will help you gain clarity on what you are good at when it comes to communications and also know what your challenges are when it comes to communications.
The next step is to recognize in others his or her communication style preferences so that you can adapt your approach to others when it comes to communications. But before we get into all that, let’s talk about self-awareness for a minute.
As in my opening story, I recognized that I was a good talker, but I began to recognize there were times when that worked against me. I never asked questions of others. I never gave feedback on the conversation. I always interrupted others. I always finished one’s sentences, when oftentimes it was not what the other person was going to say at all. In short, I realized, yes, I was a great talker, but I was not a great communicator.
It was from that conversation that I created the 4 Levels of Self-Awareness. (see graphic below) That day I was told that I talked too much, I was at Level-1 of Self-Awareness. I was unconsciously-incompetent. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Then the light bulb came on that day and I was now consciously aware of my lack of communication skills, yet I was still incompetent. Which brought me to Level-2: consciously-incompetent.
I then moved to Level-3: consciously-competent, as I learned new communication skills, becoming consciously-competent. I am now at level 4 of self-awareness, where I am subconsciously-competent. Meaning that it has become second nature. I have learned to listen more by “biting my tongue”, asking more questions, and waiting for others to finish his or her thoughts. Was it easy, NO! I still struggle with it every day, but I am now aware, and I have learned to modify my style so I can enhance my communications with others.
You can take the 4 Levels of Self-Awareness and apply it to any discipline in your life. Be it communications, personal branding, building a professional image or gaining new presentation skills. Regardless of the discipline, trying to move to Level-4 is key!
Know Yourself, First!
At CHUVA we use the DISC behavior assessment in helping you learn how to be a better communicator. In our blog, “Does Your Behavior Impact Your Personal Brand? You Bet It Does!” we talk more in-depth about what DISC is, so I suggest reading that first so that this next segment makes more sense to you in terms of communications.
Each behavioral type identifies one as being extroverted or introverted. The chart then defines characteristics of that particular behavioral style. The “Communication Tendencies” aspect tells you how you like to communicate with others. The “Red-Flags” can help you become more conscious of where communication problems can arise if you are not aware of your communication style.
Modification is Key!
So, all of this is good and well; however, what about the other person for whom you are speaking? If you only address your “needs and wants” then the conversation is a one-way street. Conversations should be a two-way street. The key to effective communication is all about modification. Modifying your approach to those who might be different than yourself.
Select someone you communicate with daily. From the behavioral indicator charts below, if you don’t know already, see which chart represents you. Then from the charts, see which one represents the person you selected. Are they the same or different than yours?
For example, if you were a “High-D”, and the other person may be a “High-S”, he or she might see you as aggressive and too direct. In this case, for more effective communication you might “soften” your approach during your conversation to make them feel less threatened.
don’t react, respond instead
Another great communication skill is to learn to be responsive, not reactive. Although you do not have to agree with others, your response does not have to be reactive. For example, if you feel that someone is questioning your knowledge or abilities, you might can get defensive without even realizing it. When you do this, you are reacting rather than responding to the conversation. When you react, you sound argumentative to make your point. This demonstrates a lack control and confidence. On the other hand, when you respond, you will approach the situation much more successfully.
So, if ever faced with a situation for which you feel the need to react, remember that you have an alternative and that is to respond instead. And to effectively respond, simply state the facts, keeping emotions out. Choose your words wisely and let your tone be one of sincerity and compassion, not intimidating and reactive.
The Rate in Which You Speak Impacts Your Communications
Another great communication skill is communicating your message clearly while allowing the listener to comprehend what is being said.
Speaking too slow can make you appear very boring. On the other hand, speaking too fast can make you appear anxious, nervous and insecure. Speaking between 160-200 words a minute is the ideal speed. An average of 180 words per minute is recommended to keep your listener interested, allowing them to better comprehend the message.
Practice this paragraph and time yourself to discover your normal speaking rate. Ideally, you should read aloud the following 180 words within a minute.
The DISC consists of 4 behavior types:
D = Dominant
I = Influencing
S = Steadiness
C = Compliance
Each behavior type tells me something about myself! For example, the “D” tells me how I respond to problems and challenges. The “I” tells me how I influence others to my point of view, the “S” tells me how I respond to the pace of the environment, and the “C” tells me how I respond to rules and procedures set by others within my organization.
In addition, knowing my behavior styles, enables me to be a better communicator. First, by understanding my natural style of communication. Second, it helps me to learn how to modify my style so that I will be more effective when communicating with others. Since I have been modifying my style and conversing with others, my interactions have been less stressful, and more effective.
Knowing when and how to modify my behavioral style has enabled me to show others more respect for their time and input, without dismissing them as I have done so many times in the past.
PRONUNCIATION vs ENUNCIATION
Pronunciation is saying a group of letters to produce the correct sound. This can vary from one language to another. For example, in American English, “vase”: is pronounced as /veis/, similar to “face”. Whereas in the British English, it is pronounced as /va:z/, as in cars.
Enunciation is saying a word clearly. It is about properly saying words and syllables. To properly enunciate words is critical for others to understand you. Many dialectics in the US enunciate words differently; however, there is a proper enunciation for words from the English Language. Know your audience! Here are a few examples.
~Are: r-ra: The letter R is a single sound, not a double sound: r-ra
~You know: ya know
I hope you are learning something about verbal communications. Just taking small steps to enhance your verbal communications each, will impact your personal brand!
To read more blogs on the topics of Communications, click here. Keep in mind that we are constantly adding new blogs so be sure to check back!
You can also submit any question concerning this topic or other personal branding topics by submitting your questions here. Our “ASK! the image guru” will try to answer your question(s) in a blog!