Before you start looking for the right communication technique or words to use to convey an idea, you must consider three critical factors. They are not complicated. They are important. Failure to include them in your thinking, could lead to a failed communication.
Proper consideration of these three factors coupled with understanding the underlying principles of communication and conflict resolution will lead you to successful, powerful, and effective communications.
The general principles, concepts, and mindsets of effective communication are simple to say. In fact, they pretty much reduce to:
- Assume the other person has benign intent until you definitely learn otherwise.
- Communicate in ways that do not project a threat to the other person.
- Make it easy for the other person to receive your message.
- Close the loop on your communications to make sure you understood correctly and that the other person understood you correctly.
This list is probably not inclusive of every key communication principle. It does include the basic, underlying ideas for most of the techniques and approaches that I teach in workshops, help coaching clients to implement, and that I work to apply in my personal life. They are simple enough to express, and they are often difficult to apply.
Application becomes difficult because of the three critical factors I mentioned above. The foundational principles and core ideas combined with the three factors accounts for the wide range of possible communication strategies you could apply in a given situation.
The three factors are:
In many cases, this is the first factor that most people consider, and they often consider it only from their perspective. If stated out loud, most people’s thinking would probably sound like this: “Here’s what I want to say.”
In reality, your message has two parts:
- The message you are attempting to deliver, and
- The message that the other person receives.
The second part of your message – the other person’s perception of it – is at least as important as the message you intend to deliver. As you choose your approach, make sure you consider both sides of the message.
Your understanding and consideration of the next two factors significantly influences how the other person receives your communication.
The nature of your relationship with the other person must figure in your thinking as you communicate with him or her. While the general principles remain the same, the specific strategy for communicating with your supervisor is different from the strategy you would use with your colleagues or with people who report to you.
If there is a power mismatch between you and the other person, it could increase the perception of threat felt by either party. Keep this in mind as you plan your communications. If you are the “superior” party, you might have to work a little harder to take any subtly implied threat out of your communications. If you are in the “subordinate” position, you might hear threats that are not intended.
Where are you during the communication? Is it spoken or written, on the phone or face-to-face, one-on-one or in a group setting? Each of these situations – contexts – calls for a different consideration as you choose your communication tactics and techniques.
The bottom-line is this: if you are looking for silver-bullet, one-size-fits-all communication strategies – look no further. You will not find them.
Work on building your communication tool kit, develop and practice multiple approaches and phrases to use in different situations and with different people, and learn to read situations so that you can choose the best communication tool for the job. Do these things well, and you will become a remarkable communicator.
As you look for the right tool for the job in various situations, remember the three critical factors to improve your odds of success.