Remember the telephone game you played when you were little? Someone would whisper a sentence into the ear of the person next to her. That person would then pass the comment to the person next to her. The secret was whispered along to each person in the line until it reached the last person…who’d then announce what she thought was the original whispered sentence.
The end message was always completely different from the original, got huge laughs at its crazy endings and clearly showed how communication can go awry!
What's NOT funny, however, is when ineffective communication leads to errors, wasted time, team conflict, broken relationships, even business failure.
Below are five important keys to communication -- written or verbal -- that leads to success, not strife, in your business and in your personal life, as well.
Choose your words wisely.
Whether writing or speaking, communicating involves taking a bit of time to think about what you’re going to say. Will the listener understand what you’re saying? Or will it be misinterpreted?
Take responsibility for how you will be understood and do the best you can to communicate in a way that improves the odds for clear understanding.
Listen to what others say.
Pay attention to the person with whom you’re conversing or to the presenter at a conference. If you find yourself formulating a response or an answer rather than listening to the person who's speaking, then you're likely to miss the real opportunities of the conversation.
Better to listen fully, take it in and then respond. If necessary, you can ask to have the question or statement repeated before you respond. And it can be helpful to restate what you heard before giving your response.
Consider your tone, inflection and body language.
When you speak, make sure that the tone of your voice is not "saying" something different from the “words” that are coming from your mouth. For instance, if you’re paying a compliment or making a sales presentation about an exciting new product, but you’re frowning or not meeting eyes with your audience, your message may be taken differently from your intent.
Further, if you are being spoken to, stand with your arms at your side or on the table. Or, you might sit with your hands in your lap. If your arms are crossed, you give a vibe that you’re “closed in” or are not receptive to the conversation.
Write less, say more.
Most of us communicate these days using email, Skype, instant message and the like. While these methods are a valid means, particularly because they serve as a keeper of records, they sometimes lose some of their effectiveness because you can’t see the body language or hear the tone of voice. Inferences can be made that you don't intend.
Thus, it’s important to take the time to formulate your email with care, especially since once it’s gone from your fingers, your communication is forevermore viewable.
Know when to stop!
Especially with electronic communication, less is better. But the same is also true for verbal communication. The more succinct and to the point your communication is—without being abrupt or unfriendly—the more effective it's likely to be.