Most of us would like to be better communicators. As leaders, co-workers, team members and in all of the other roles we play both professionally and personally, we know that communication is a major key to success.
When we are frustrated or stymied by something, often better communication would have improved it.
Consider the new executive or manager who walks into their first meeting. Every movement is watched. Where they sit is analyzed. What they say is discussed later. Did they make declarative statements or ask questions? Did they smile? Were they quiet or too quiet? What about their tone of voice?
Or consider seeing an old friend with a new business partner. You’ve not spent much time with the new partner before. You care about your friend and so you are trying to build an informed opinion of their partner, so you observe them very carefully.
Of course not every situation is this obvious, but in every situation we are all being observed as people try to truly understand our message. Yes, communication certainly is important – and valuable. And guess what? As these two examples clearly show, we can’t not communicate.
Think about it.
We communicate with our words, of course. Our eyes and our facial expressions convey many things. We communicate with the tone of our voice, with our movements and hands. We even communicate when we are silent.
So it is a paradox to think that we are always communicating and yet we still want to improve our communications skills.
Just because we do something all the time, doesn’t mean we think about it all the time. And if we are doing something without thinking about it, we are operating from habit.
Habits are our helpers. They allow us to get through all of the many tasks we encounter each day – many of which we do subconsciously. And while habits help us, sometimes they don’t serve us in the ways we would most like. In those cases, we can adjust those habits.
Making a Change
If we want to think about improving our subconscious communication, it helps to think about the ways we communicate. I mentioned a list above. Others have split up the communication components into these segments:
What we say
How we say it
How we look
While I agree with those components I think it is also important for us to consider a fourth component too– what we don’t say.
Keeping these components in mind, I believe that there are at least five things that you can do if you want to do a better job of communicating during all those times you aren’t thinking about communicating.
Be aware. The first step to improving our subconscious communication skills is to be aware of how pervasive our communication is. Awareness helps us bring things out of the subconscious and up to a conscious level. It is at the conscious level we can work on them.
Be vigilant. Once we have decided we want to improve these skills and are aware of the factors involved, we have to pay attention. Begin to more carefully notice how people react to you. Confirm your observations by restating your points if you feel you are miscommunicating. Being vigilant means taking more care and paying closer attention to your communication style and results.
Get feedback. I have learned over the years that in some cases the tone of my voice is too strong - that even when I’m not upset or frustrated by something, the tone of my voice sometimes sends a different message. Without this feedback I wouldn’t even be aware of this issue. With the feedback I can improve. Of course, you may receive positive feedback too – about things you are unaware of that serve you well. It is important to receive both the encouragement and the corrective ideas.
Make a plan. Work on the areas you have noticed. Work on the things you received feedback on. Practice new or different techniques. This step is all about modifying and reforming your habits into more successful ones.
Continue the loop. Awareness, vigilance, feedback and practice are the steps in a learning loop that you can apply over and over to continue to improve your subconscious communication skills.
The grammar isn’t great, but the logic is perfect – you can’t not communicate. All of our actions, words and non actions send a message to those around us. To become more effective and better understood, we first need to recognize this fact, then take action to change our communications habits so we are communicating what we want to communicate, more of the time.
Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (http://KevinEikenberry.com ), a learning consulting company. To receive a free Special Report on leadership that includes resources, ideas, and advice go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/leadership.asp or call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888. LEARNER.