Becoming a Better Communicator
I cannot think of one thing in life that couldn’t be improved upon by better communication. Our work lives, our friendships, our marriages, any aspect of life that entails social interaction can always be improved upon by being good communicators. And there is no reason to let being a good communicator stop you from becoming better.
I have been a communicator since I was a toddler. My mom tells me that I spoke full sentences with perfect clarity at 18 months old and I haven’t shut up since then! I love to write, and I love to read, and I love written communication with someone who is articulate and interesting! I think of the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in their retirement and the letters they exchanged and I just love how ideal that sounds! What a fascinating correspondence!
I got my Bachelor of Science in Business Management with specializations in organizational leadership and yes…strategic communication. Throughout both my undergraduate and graduate programs I have taken numerous courses in strategic communication and how to improve as a communicator. I have also seen my own communication flaws as well, and while I may never perfect them, I have a far greater chance of getting there now that I am aware of them.
I also have some major pet peeves about communication. One of them is passive or passive aggressive communication. I often overhear people discussing how their husbands are poor communicators. They will share the details of an incident at home where they felt their husband was being unusually obtuse, and then launch into a “then I said to him” speech. And almost invariably, the speech is a passive aggressive soliloquy that is at least as bad as whatever the husband had been doing in the first place.
Passive aggressive speech is never okay, and passive communication is not effective. If what you are going to say has value, then say it. Say it with purpose, say it respectfully and with assertiveness. Don’t beat around the bush: “I wish someone would help me fold the laundry.” Instead, “Please help me fold the laundry.” I also hate when I get emails from someone that say, “I am needing you to take a look at this....” No, just say, “Please look at this.” I cringe every time I see the phrase “am needing.” That is someone afraid of direct communication.
Effective communication happens only when the message the receiver gets is the same message that the sender intended. Someone may fancy themselves a whiz in communication, but if no one ever understands what they mean then they are not. I knew a director at work once like that. She used every high dollar word she could in a short email, and we were all left scratching our heads and wondering what exactly she wanted us to do.
My flaw is that I will over-communicate. My intention is to be helpful, but when you bombard people with tons of nonessential information while getting to your point, you lose them before you get there. I have lately discovered that a better way is to lead with the point I am making and follow up with detail. Especially at work. I am a believer in giving people all of the information necessary to do their jobs effectively. Unless it’s confidential there is no need to hide the reasons why. I like to know the reasons why behind things. But some people don’t. If you lead with the point you are making, the people who don’t care about the reasons why can be satisfied knowing the instruction, and the others can then continue to be engaged for more information. This has worked better for me at work. In my personal life, I struggle with that. As I have very often been told, “Just tell me the time, don’t build me the clock!”
But it is through a lifelong pursuit that we become better communicators, and in doing so, enrich all of our relationships!