The following is a guest piece by Dr. Derek Roger and Nick Petrie.
It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it
Talking comes so naturally to us we tend to forget just how much skill is involved. Even when we’re speaking fast, every word is selected as the appropriate one, from a huge collection we have stored in our brains. We weren’t born with language; all the words, and the rules governing them, had to be learned.
Spoken language, together with the gestures to go with what we’re saying, are what constitutes communication. It is at the heart of what it means to be human, but it all goes wrong when we’re less selective about when, how and what we communicate.
Let’s use a simple illustrative example, from the world of work: you’ve just completed a short proposal for a contract, a task you haven’t done before, and your boss is reading through it. How does she respond? The reply you’re likely to dread, especially if this all takes place in front of your colleagues, is along the lines of “You’ve done a pretty bad job of this. Didn’t they teach you anything at college?”
Unfortunately, feedback to direct reports often carries this kind of blaming tone, and it is hardly surprising that so many engagement surveys highlight the negative effects of poor communication. One solution is to provide communication skills training, but the negative ratings often persist.
The reason is that the principles of conventional communication skills programs may be quite ambiguous. Eye-contact is an example: the rule is that you should maintain eye-contact for a certain percentage of the time, to indicate continued interest, but if it’s maintained for too long the conversation starts to feel like an interrogation!
On the other hand, if you’re conveying complex information, people might break eye-contact because they’re reflecting on what you’ve said, not because they aren’t attending.
Listen, just wake up!
So what can be done to improve communication skills? Click here to continue reading »”Why Leaders Should Depersonalize Communication”