It is fairly common for two people not to understand each other. Often, without even knowing it, we hold certain misconceptions about how to communicate with one another. These misconceptions create barriers to engaging in effective exchange and genuine conversation. Below is a list of the common misconceptions we can hold about communication. Take a look and see where your pitfalls might be. Becoming more aware of your own “habits of mind” about communication could help increase your effectiveness at work.
Here’s an excerpt from the HR Council, on Miscommunication. How it can happen, and some ways to avoid it.
“If I say it, the other person will understand.”
“The more communication, the better!”
If you are feeling misunderstood, talking too much and louder is a mistake. This can actually exacerbate a situation versus clarify it. Excessive talking won´t help. Try different ways of expressing yourself. Knowing when to remain silent is part of communicating effectively.
“Any problem can be solved at any time if we communicate with each other.”
There are times when taking some time away from each other and the situation can be a better solution than trying to talk it out. Often high intensity emotions such as anger or sadness can blow an interaction out of proportion. A few moments of self-reflection and calm can help you gain perspective on the issue.
“Communication is a natural ability – some have it, some don´t.”
Communication is not an innate ability. Skillful communication can be a learned with practice. There are some very simple tips that can dramatically increase how you understand others and are understood. Try them out and see for yourself if anything changes.
(Adapted from Johnson, Reaching Out, 2003)
Communication amongst people is a process in which everyone receives, sends, interprets, and infers all at the same time, and there is no beginning and end. How do you send messages effectively? Taking into account your own internal states, what can you do to ensure effective communication of your ideas and feeling?
- Use “I” statements. Powerful and influential statements are made when a person uses personal pronouns when speaking. It contributes to direct communication. Simply say what you think or feel about something. “I feel frustrated when people are late to meetings” versus “Some people may think that people who come late to meetings are passive aggressive“.
- Describe behaviours without judgment or an evaluative statement. “You interrupted me several times during our staff meeting” versus “you are an attention-seeker and have no care for others“.
- Describe your feelings: this is an important part of the message that often gets skipped even though the emotional content is directly colouring your message. Best to just name it so that others can understand what is going on for you. For instance, “I felt angry when you cut me off during our staff meeting.”
- Maintain congruence between your verbal and non-verbal messages. Saying, “I enjoyed your presentation to the board..” with your eyes rolling or a sarcastic tone, will confuse the person and most likely decrease trust which closes communication down. Your body language accounts for more than 60% of your message – verbal and physical congruence will build trust and clarify your intent.
- For many people it will take practice to become an effective communicator. Ask for feedback around the clarity, delivery, and timing of your message. It might feel risky but each small risk will build your confidence and increase trust in those you work with.
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