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Communication The Foundation
By Arnold Sanow   Printer Friendly Version

From the time we're young children, we're taught how to talk. All through school we take classes in English to help us speak and write properly. What we aren't taught is the art of interpersonal communication. Being an effective communicator is especially important in developing and keeping relationships with your associates, members and/or clients. In fact, according to the American Management Association 90% of all problems in an organization is a direct result of poor communication. To make sure you not only survive but thrive, there are four basic assumptions regarding communication that you must understand.

Good Communication Skills Can Be Learned. Many people believe good communicators are "born with" the skill - and only a few "lucky people" possess outstanding communication ability. In reality, those excellent communicators who you admire either had superior role models, or they made a deliberate effort to learn. For example, Winston Churchill, one of the greatest orators of all time, grew up with a severe stuttering problem. It took him three years to get through the 8th grade because of his poor communication skills. With practice and determination he became a great speaker.

To help you with your interpersonal communication skills I would recommend Toastmasters International. Toastmasters programs can be offered at your workplace. They focus on all aspects of communication and the program allows you to get positive constructive feedback from fellow workers. To get more information about setting up a club or going to an existing club call 1-800-9-WE-SPEAK.

You Have Two Ears And One Mouth. Many people assume that good communication only deals with how well you talk. This couldn't be further from the truth. Most of the communication mishaps happen because of poor listening habits. To become an active listener follow these 6 rules:

  • Limit your own talking - You have two ears and one mouth. The more you listen the more opportunity you'll have to find and understand the wants, needs and aspirations of your employees.
  • Don't interrupt - By interrupting your employee, sensitivity, rapport and commitment are all killed. Although at times it seems expedient to interrupt, this perceived lack of respect for your employees helps to deteriorate the relationship and makes it harder to develop rapport.
  • Notice nonverbal communication - Only 7% of the message we are communicating is through the words we use, 38% is through the tone of our voice and 55% is through our body language. This means that body language and tone of voice convey 93% of the message that someone communicates. Therefore, if you're talking to an employee and they start doing things like, crossing their arms, crossing their legs away from you, yawning, leaning back, looking bored or avoiding eye contact, you need to "listen" to their body language. By being sensitive to their body language you pick up the real underlying messages and feelings that are being conveyed. In addition, you can encourage others to communicate with you by softening your body language. Follow the key points in this acronym. S- smile, O - open posture, F- forward lean, T- watch others territory, E- eye contact, N- nodding to show you're listening.
  • Don't only think about what you're going to say next - Too many times we are so concerned about we want to say that we don't hear what the other person is really saying. By not paying total attention to our employee(s), we focus on what we think is important to them and not what they're really concerned about.
  • Talk to your employees in a conducive setting - To get others to listen to us and have them focus on the substance of our message, distractions must be minimized. Is your office too hot?, Too cool?, Is the phone ringing all the time?, Are you answering the phone while talking to them?, Are there other people around?, Do you have distracting habits? To make sure active listening takes place, you must alleviate all distractions.
  • Paraphrase what has been said - To avoid misunderstandings, it's important to repeat back what your employee has told you. The problem is that when you talk, how you say something and the words you use may have a different meaning to your employee. Many times we say, "do you understand? or does that make sense?" In most cases your employee will say, "yes". The question we really need to find out is, "what did they understand?" And since it may seem rude to ask that question, we need to repeat back what they said to make sure we are both hearing and understanding the same thing.

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