In all aspects of life but especially in the workplace, effective communication is about much more than choosing your words. Along with what you say, how you say it - your tone of voice, inflection, volume and rate of speech - and how you look when you’re saying it routinely affect whether your message gets heard in the way that you intended. To avoid misunderstandings and to build better working relationships, every manager needs to be a conscious communicator.
Becoming a conscious communicator starts with self-awareness. Do you tend to speak at a pace that people generally find comfortable and easily to understand, or do you talk so fast that they struggle to keep up? Do you regularly pause to reflect and gauge your listener’s attention and receptiveness? Do you talk with your hands and, if so, do your gestures complement and reinforce your words, or are they excessive and distracting? What about your posture and your facial expressions? Being aware of your communication style and its impact encompasses all of these factors and more. A conscious communicator also identifies any potential stumbling blocks and accepts personal and professional responsibility for communicating well - clearly and respectfully. Finally, a conscious communicator analyzes their interactions with others and takes appropriate actions to maintain relationships while achieving goals and business results.
To help you excel as a communicator with your team members, your colleagues, and key decision makers and stakeholders, we've highlighted five axioms of conscious communication. As you work to improve your effectiveness, both in formal presentations and casual conversations, keep these crucial facts of communication in mind:
Axiom #1: When two (or more) people are together, communication naturally happens - it’s impossible not to communicate. Each person will read and interpret some behaviour of the other person - whether it’s eye contact, arm motions, an offhand remark or even the positive energy someone gives off - regardless of whether they engage in an actual conversation.
Axiom #2: Each message contains both some content and some statement about the relationship between the two people. Even when it’s not explicitly spoken, communication typically conveys whether the communicators know one another or are strangers, and feel comfortable with each other or have some sort of tension between them.
Axiom #3: While content messages are usually delivered through words, relationship messages are most often nonverbal. Consequently, communicators have to consider both the content and relational aspects of a message, and both what’s said and what’s conveyed through body language, to achieve a full, clear and accurate understanding of its meaning.
Axiom #4: In an ongoing relationship, the messaging from one interaction can affect how the next interaction is perceived and processed. Among co-workers who frequently communicate, “relationship residue” can occur. Impressions from previous interactions carry over, impacting the meaning attached to the message. For instance, if a person tends to be critical and dismissive in early encounters, their messages might be seen and heard in a negative light going forward - even when what they mean to convey is encouraging and positive.
Axiom #5: The real or perceived power of the communicators impacts how meaning is assigned to messages. In any workplace relationship, the role and authority of people with whom we communicate affects how we respond to what they say. Even if the message is similar in content, your response is likely to be different to that message if it’s delivered by your boss than if it comes from your assistant.
Being aware of these aspects of conscious communication will help you improve your skills as a communicator with your team members and throughout the organization.
This article first appeared on amanet.org and adapted for CMC. Used with permission. All rights reserved.