Communicating is mechanically defined, but far more complicated. Let me explain. For years I have heard there are six messages that take place every time someone speaks. There is what we think we say and what we actually say. Then, there is what the other person hears us say and what they think they heard us say. In addition, there is what they say back about what we have said and, finally, what we hear them say about what we said in the first place.
Communication also involves the actual words spoken, body language and tone of voice. When we consider these factors it does not take long to see how complicated communication can be, regardless of the language.
In some ways, trying to communicate is like golf. Consider the difficulty of having the perfect swing. The perfect golf swing involves the position of the feet, squaring of the hips, arms straight, hand grip, and oh yes, keeping your head down and eye on the ball. If you feel comfortable, you probably are not doing it right. Golf is a good analogy of the difficulty in communication.
Yet, effective communication is vital to leadership. The key to this statement is “effective.” There are several steps needed to communicate effectively as a leader. The first to consider is listening. Wait a minute, I thought communication was about an ability to speak? The ability of leaders to listen is one of the building blocks to effective communication. Here are a few of the many ideas suggested in developing the skill of listening.
1) Listening is not passive. In his article on 7 Keys to Listening, Dr. Mort Orman addresses the active nature of listening. A passive approach to listening easily results in distraction and a failure to understand the message being communicated.
2) Do not think about what to say next. Few areas are more difficult than learning how to listen without waiting for the person to take a breath so we can jump in and give our two cents worth. Michael Webb describes the problem as “Knowing the answer.”
3) Listen with your eyes, ears, and heart. Dr. Larry Alan Nadig says, “it is as if we were standing in the other person’s shoes, seeing through his/her eyes and listening through the person’s ears.” Listening this way requires time and practice to develop properly.
4) Learn to repeat what is heard. While a wealth of information is available, in order to build better relationships with others, one of the key exercises recommended is learning to repeat the information shared. Here is where effective communication is realized.