Now your talking (and listening)
AT OUR NEXT ICETALK RAUL APARICI WILL BE SHARING HIS INSIGHTS AND GUIDANCE WHEN FACING THE CHALLENGE OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. THAT'S COMMUNICATION AT WORK, AT HOME, OUT AND ABOUT, ONE TO ONE, ONE TO EVERYONE...
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We live in an age which gives more prestige to the idea of individual genius than that of collaboration. The Romantic ideal of an isolated creator, working all alone on something unique and powerful, is very seductive – but it ignores the truth of our working lives: no matter what career you have, work is so compartmentalized and interconnected nowadays that we have to work with others in order to get things done. This is why it is so important that we develop our communication skills – if we can’t communicate what we need or would like from others, it will always be difficult to work together.
One major roadblock for good communication is our tendency to make assumptions. Our early childhood experiences often convince us that we don’t need to make too much effort to be understood – when we are children, all we had to do was cry and our parents would realise that we were tired or bored or hungry. The trouble is that without realising it we sometimes take this blueprint of communication with us through life. We assume that we won’t have to make too much effort to make ourselves understood. Even when we do try to explain what we’re thinking, we can tend to overestimate how well we’ve explained our thoughts.This makes us fairly bad “teachers” - and no matter our formal titles, teaching is an essential part of communication in all roles.
In order to get better at communicating, we have to become cautious about whether we’ve really been clear as well as more empathetic – learning to imagine what the other person is hearing and thinking when we try to talk to them.
In any interaction—as in any relationship—both parties have needs and preferences about how to communicate. It can be very helpful to have intentional conversations with our colleagues about our communication preferences, especially the forms in which we’d like key conversations to happen. It’s also important to learn ad at times adapt to their preferences.
Differences in communication styles also play a key role during conflict. Some level of conflict in the workplace is inevitable and indeed healthy. The key is how we deal with it. We need to be direct about our needs and assertive in asking for what we want, rather than getting aggressive, passive aggressive, or entirely passive. We also need to think critically about how to approach conflicts before they happen. When heightened emotions are involved, conflict can easily become about winning and losing. Instead the focus should be on finding a joint solution, which acknowledges both sets of needs, but finds a way to move forward together.
We both desire and fear feedback. We also know we need to give it, but we don’t know how honest to be. When we are giving feedback, we need to remain aware to the fact that we only ever have our side of the story.
When we are receiving feedback we have to focus on controlling our knee-jerk assumptions, responses and defences in order to focus on using the information provided as a source of growth. We need to recognise that just as we are not always expert “teachers” in communication, we are not always the best students either.
Five Steps for Giving Feedback
1. Ask for permission.
2. State the issue.
3. Explain the effects.
4. Ask for the other person’s thoughts.
5. Brainstorm or suggest solutions
Useful Phrases for Giving Feedback
Would it help if I... (told you what I found strongest/made some edits/etc)
What do you think about....
May I make a suggestion?
One thing I noticed was...
This [future improvement] is tough, but I believe you’re up to it.
Useful Phrases for Getting Feedback
What did you think about [specific aspect]?
Can you give me an example?
Do you think it’s the ___ that’s problematic here, or the ____?
Would it help if I ...?
What would the ideal version look like?
To better understand others, we also must be curious and interested in them and learn to ask genuine questions. This means recognising our ignorance and moving beyond our fear of not-knowing. This in turn will help us develop our active listening ability, which is key during critical moments like problem-solving and conflict resolution.
Five Stages of Listening
You completely disregard the other person.
Just Like Me
You offer your own approach to a problem.
You encourage the person to tell you more.
You show real curiosity and encourage the person to share more about how they see their situation without judging or interrupting, and invite them to suggest ideas. If you would like to offer an opinion you first ask permission.
Finally, it’s important to take time to practice communication and get feedback on our style and tendencies from other people. This is because communication is less a talent and more a skill, something we can work at and improve over time in big and small ways. We should take time to regularly observe ourselves, to practice what we want to say before important meetings, to gather feedback, and to incorporate this feedback about our communication habits into our daily work.
RAUL APARICI is a consultant and facilitator specialising in communication in all its forms with a diverse background that includes a career in the fitness industry, a BA in English Literature and an MA in Critical Theory. He likes to match academic insights with commercial pragmatism grounded in the wisdom of everyday life and work