Communicating for Intended Results
Every day we are faced with challenges that require cooperation and collaboration with coworkers, patients, physicians and others. No matter what technical, clinical, or managerial skills are needed for the job, we must be effective communicators. The following 8 tips will help:
- Keep it simple. More words, complex explanations, and impressive vocabularies do not necessarily get the point across. Be clear and concise to get your message across. When you are the speaker, it is all about the listener.
- Check for understanding. Any communication is incomplete unless it is understood. Ask the listener open-ended questions (i.e., “What questions do you have?” or “What do you think about this?”).
- Have something to say that is worth the listener’s time. Casual conversations can be about anything. Meaningful personal or professional communication takes preparation and should have purpose and substance.
- Define your purpose for listening. Before you listen to a speaker, consider why you are listening, and what you want to gain and/or give as a result of this exchange. Do you need to get facts? Build the relationship? Understand the speaker’s point of view? If you define your purpose, you will listen more effectively and are more likely to achieve your objective.
- Attend to the message and the messenger. Listen to the words, analyze the meaning, and concentrate on what the speaker intends to say. Restate or summarize what you have heard in order to clarify or validate the message. Look directly at the speaker, lean slightly toward them, and concentrate on their words.
- Process the message. Ask yourself the following questions: “What does this mean to me?” “How will I want to respond?” “What are the speaker’s needs?” “Is a response needed?” “Are there non-verbal cues or other signs of a deeper meaning?” “Am I prepared to respond now, or do I need more information, or time before responding?”
- Respond to the message. Be sure that your verbal and non-verbal responses are congruent. Frame your response carefully. Avoid distracting mannerisms and gestures. Check to see if your reply is understood.
- Use neutral responses for active listening. If your purpose for listening is to convey interest and encourage the speaker, use neutral responses (i.e., “I see,” or, “That’s interesting,” or “Tell me more”).
We were born with two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion, and you will be a more effective communicator. The listening side of effective communication can dramatically support your personal and professional success as you:
- Create an audience. If your audience perceives you to be smart enough to listen to them, they will conclude that you must be smart enough to be heard.
- Listening helps relationships. Communication is an interactive process. Listening well creates good will between you and others. Listening demonstrates respect and caring for both the speaker and the message.
- You will earn trust. People who know they have been heard are much more likely to trust those with whom they interact.
- You will make fewer mistakes. Good listening includes paraphrasing and clarifying the speaker’s intended message. You will be more effective in acting on the message when you are sure that you have heard the communication as it was intended.
Effective communication falls in the category of “Simple, but not easy.” Being determined to apply these tips will take you a long way toward creating a positive work environment.