Communication Is Key!

Mike Camp

I was reminded recently about the importance of how we communicate and how others may perceive the way we say things. So often we communicate to those around us thinking our message will be delivered one way, and it ends up going in a completely different direction. In our minds, we hear the words coming out and think it will be easily understandable and make sense. Meanwhile, your communication may be perceived as blunt, aggressive, confusing, rude, etc.

When communication isn’t handled properly, the parties involved can become irritated with each other, due to the (mis)perceptions of the communication. As leaders on a tight schedule, we get busy and think we don’t have time to actually commit ourselves to quality interpersonal conversations, so we usually respond with quick, non-personal answers.

Unfortunately, the words that come out of your mouth (or in your e-mail) will ultimately be the judge of how you are perceived by others. Many times, it is the way you say something rather than what you say which causes the biggest issue. The communication world has changed so drastically over the last few years with new technology and various social media outlets. With these new formats come new ways of communicating, and this sometimes affects our interpersonal communication skills.

A good example of this new communication format is text messaging. When you text someone, the conversation is usually filled with short one-liners, or sometimes even one-word responses. The value of a good conversation is eroded when using this format. Unfortunately, with this technology being used so frequently, we sometimes speak to others in person as if we were texting them. Sometimes we use short word bursts instead of quality conversations, which require open dialogue between multiple parties. Text messaging is not a bad thing— and sometimes we only need to say a few words to get our message across. The problem becomes apparent when the texting format interrupts your normal interpersonal communications with others, which may leads the listener to feel like your tone is abrupt or direct.

Other mistakes leaders can make when communicating is the tone they use. The tone can do more to control the communication than the actual words used. If your tone is perceived as abrasive or too direct, the listener can view your words as negative or unfriendly. When this happens, the leader loses a little of the connection he or she has with those around them.

Say a police officer pulls you over for speeding, the conversation can play out in multiple ways, even though the words don’t change. For example, the officer asks "Did you know you were speeding?" or asks for your insurance and registration. If the incorrect tone is used, the entire situation can turn negative pretty quickly. However, if the officer remains calm and uses a gentler tone, the outcome of the situation tends to be more positive, regardless of if a ticket is issued or not.

One of the greatest experiences we can have in the workplace is to have the opportunity to lead others. With this opportunity comes a great responsibility to impact on their lives in a positive manner. If we fail in our communication with those around us, we will certainly fail as leaders. We must ensure our communication has the appropriate tone, and that we allow ourselves the time necessary to communicate with those around us with quality conversations—and not just in quick, short, text message-type responses.

"The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said". - Unknown