By Kathleen E. Murphy
Almost on a daily basis I have people asking me for advice on how to improve upon either their communication skills, or how they can work with others to help improve the communication level between them, or a team they work with or manage. Since there are varying degrees of how well people communicate interpersonally, or with multiple types of people, there is typically a range of how well their information is being interpreted and whether their message is being conveyed clearly, or not. For some people, the ability to communicate well is a natural talent, but for most people, it is a skill they need to continuously work on to obtain a basic to an intermediate level of proficiency.
It is obvious when you come across someone who has mastered the art of communicating well, and you can appreciate how smoothly they are able to articulate their information to you. Conversely, we have all experienced having to communicate with others who lack basic communication skills, or who have room for improvement in this area. So, what can you do if you are challenged with your ability to communicate, or when you are dealing with people who are not at your same level of communication skills? Here are some tips you can consider putting into practice to help.
- (5) W’s & 1 (H) – Ask the person to cover what in journalism school is referred to as the (5) W’s and (1) H. In other words, make sure they are conveying to you in their communication Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Typically, when one of these elements is left out, it leaves room for misinterpretation and elongates the process of getting the persons message across.
- Time Line – When you are communicating with someone or a group of people, it is important to make sure they are aware of whether the topic you are communicating about has a time line. Not all communications have a timeline associated them in terms of “next steps”, but when they do, and this is not articulated, this is often when the communication breaks down.
- Methods of Communicating – Simply because you like to communicate verbally, does not mean everyone does. Some people prefer to communicate in writing, or perhaps a combination of face-to-face and in writing too. The best advice I can give you is to ask what the person or groups preferred method(s) of communication is.
- Formal or Informal – Depending on who you are communicating with, what the topic is about, how well you know the person, or a myriad of other factors will contribute to whether it is best to communicate in a formal or informal style with the recipient(s). It is best to lean towards formally communicating with others, and then determine during the course of communication if the recipient(s) modifies the communication style to be less formal.
- Don’t Make Assumptions – If you are not clear about an aspect of the communication you are having interpersonally, or with a team, it is best to ask for clarification on the aspect of the communication which is not clear. You can do this with either the entire group, or with one to two people involved in the discussion who you can ask and determine if they interpreted the information the same way you did.
I realize practicing your communication skills may not be your idea of “fun”, but the stronger you become at honing this skill, the easier it will be for you to interact with your boss, colleagues and people you generally associate with. If you are wondering what communication level you are at, ask two or three people you know well, respect and are comfortable with receiving constructive feedback from. It is important you ask them to only give you constructive feedback, and to also share with you aspects of how you communicate well. If you work on the constructive feedback communication aspects, ask them if they would be willing to re-evaluate your progress in another month. This will give you plenty of time to practice and hone the communication skills you desire to have, and focus on the opportunities you will have when you are at a higher level of being able to converse with others.
Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me Too. Market Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at firstname.lastname@example.org.