Strong communication skills are hard to find in every day life. From business to personal life, communication flows have evolved into often emotionless electronic messaging. Face-to-face interaction gets limited in lieu of technology, which can also limit comprehension. Effective communication can certainly happen through technology, but I think regardless of the method we often need to put more effort into daily communications. As I sit conversation-less in the passenger seat of the car typing this post on my iPhone, the irony is astonishing.
One of the main themes of the Advancing Ag’s three day Leadership Summit in November was communication. One day was devoted to effective communication, while the other two days discussed leadership themes that require strong communication practices. I learned a few basic communication tips that I think can benefit anyone in personal life or in the workplace.
I learned how to ask proper questions. This may seem elementary, but as an optimist I often say something like “Isn’t it a nice day?” or as a true Canadian “That was a productive meeting, eh?” Both questions are closed questions framed in a way that the listener has to strongly disagree to answer with something other than what’s expected. It doesn’t give the chance for an authentic dialogue. By structuring the question “what were your take-aways from the meeting?” an effective communication flow begins. Ask questions to learn a new perspective, not to re-enforce your own.
I also learned how to be a better listener, and how important strong listening skills are to communicate effectively. One way to be an active and engaged listener is to ask probing questions and search for next steps after the conversation. By being inquisitive about the topic and trying to understand the subject matter, the conversation will likely be more memorable, even if you weren’t interested in the topic. After leaving a conversation with clear action items both parties are likely to think the communication was strong. When listening for true comprehension, a good practice is to rephrase part of the speaker’s sentence in the form of a clarification question. This forces us to hear the information, process it, and repeat it right away, which creates a higher chance of remembering the content.
These simple tips can create more effective two-way communication every day. Try to use open questions at home and at work to understand your listener’s point of view, and when it’s your turn to listen be engaging whatever the answer, and just maybe you’ll learn something. Considering we spend roughly 60% of our communication time listening, and that within a few hours we typically only recall about 20% of what was said, with these tips maybe we can improve tomorrow and remember half of what was discussed today?