Whether you own your own business, lead a corporate division, or simply need to collaborate with others in order to do your work, one thing is certain: you need to communicate, and communicate well, to truly shine. The value of skillful communication can be seen in the most extraordinary groups and individuals, who go beyond basic number-chasing to excel in ways that lend a deeper mystique and meaning to their work.
Yes, workplaces are rife with stories of abominable communications from managers, leaders, or employees who get shuffled around from one post to another because no one wants the unpleasant — and skill-requiring — job of pointing out and holding them accountable for their unskillfulness. Indeed, surveys show that poor communication is one of the root causes for workplace stress, higher absenteeism, and people leaving the organization.
But just because there are many mediocre and sub-par performers, do you really want to be one? In some cases, following the pack is really just the lazier and less desirable option. While greater mastery has its demands, and requires you to move past your comfortable status quo to higher levels of development and skillfulness, the fruits of those labors include better relationships, less stress, deeper meaning, greater satisfaction, higher confidence, fewer miscommunications and misunderstandings, and more. Aren’t these worth putting in a little bit more effort?
Some of the essentials for higher-performing groups and individuals:
- Get centered. Your best instinct, communication, and decision-making come when you’re centered, rather than when you’re preoccupied, flustered, angry, or otherwise “off-center.” Thus, practices that help you stay centered are worth the time and effort.
- Listen well. Skillful listening makes other people feel heard, and it also ensures that you’re getting authentic, good quality information and are making deeper and more positive connections with others. Poor listening happens often, and results in miscommunications, misunderstandings, and other mishaps.
- Speak clearly. Ums, ahhs, errs, uh-hmmms, and other poor habits make it difficult for people to understand what it is you’re trying to communicate. This includes speaking too quickly (or speaking so slowly or softly that you put people to sleep before your sentence is finished), or speaking into your shirt or hand. Endeavor to relax your voice, take a deep breath, hold a positive intention, and say what you’re trying to say.
- Think creatively. Do you think? It’s a weird question, to be sure, but it’s amazing how often people don’t think — they just DO or follow without putting any updated thought into their doing or following. Asking questions, among other things, is one great way to stimulate creative thinking. For example, you can ask, Does my approach to to this need to be updated? Have I fallen into a rut? What other solutions are possible for this problem? How else could I be seeing this?
- Be receptive. Be open to what others are saying or offering, or to potential solutions that might be just on the other side of your perception. Often, you might restrict the flow of ideas or communication, or just make yourself feel unnecessarily tense or anxious, because you’re making too many assumptions or are being too quick to judge and criticize. Allow yourself the pleasure of increased receptivity.
- Inquire skillfully. Asking good questions is a facet of skillful listening and creative thinking. Skillful inquiry is different from interrogation, where you’re basically grilling someone in order to dismantle a belief or idea that you don’t agree with. Skillful inquiry is also different from making statements that have question marks on the end, such as “You don’t really believe that?” You inquire because you want to learn more, and by learning more you — and your results — are enriched.
- Stay relaxed. Have you ever spoken with someone who was very preoccupied or agitated? Who seemed like they were ready to leap away (and may have already done so, mentally)? This isn’t to say that excitement and passion are to be squelched, but rather than stress and tension, be relaxed in order to be more skillful and effective. Choose whatever strategies appeal to you to help you stay relaxed, no matter what is happening around you.
- Be mindful. This is a lovely way of saying, “Pay attention!” It can be downright frightening when someone isn’t paying attention to where they’re walking or while they’re driving. But it’s also annoying if you don’t pay attention when you’re speaking with someone, or if you leave things unfinished or other than where you found them (particularly when you’re in someone else’s space, or have someone else relying on your contribution). Cultivating mindfulness is simply learning to pay attention to what you’re doing.
- Have intention. What’s your intention? You can ask yourself this question when you’re starting a project or task, getting ready to go to a meeting, or starting a conversation or responding to something someone has said or done. You can also ask this question of someone else, as in, “What is your intention for involving me in this project?” or “What was your intention for saying that?” Knowing your intention, and understanding someone else’s intention, will help you be more conscious of what you’re doing or saying something — which means you’ll be able to be more effective and skillful.
- Be genuine. Being genuine can include speaking honestly, being friendly, saying “no” when you feel like saying “no,” or expressing excitement or sadness or sympathy when you feel it. It might mean admitting, “No, I don’t really agree with that,” or “You know, I think you’ve changed my mind!” Being authentic or genuine doesn’t give you license to be rude or lacking in compassion, however. “I was just being honest” isn’t a good excuse for being unskillful. By increasing your mindset-management skillfulness, and your interpersonal communication capabilities, you’ll feel more confident about being who you are.
This article was originally featured at Ivy Sea Online and is reprinted with permission.
© 2004 – 2014, Jamie Walters. All rights reserved.