Being a great communicator
Being a great communicator is necessary in making the best use of your time whilst being respectful of others people’s time. Effective communication is listening attentively when the other person is talking and clearly explaining your thoughts when it is your turn to speak. Clearly understanding the needs of each other through focused listening is important for effective communication.
Many times, communication is based on a person’s interpretation through unclear communication or inattentive listening. Some assumptions are made, opinions are developed, and ideas are created that may not be factual. Effective communication creates a clear understanding of what is being said. Not understanding what is communicated is a waste of time for both parties involved in a discussion.
How do you know you are a great communicator?
So how do you know that you are communicating your thoughts and ideas clearly to another person? How do you know that the person understands what you are communicating? You could just wait and see how your words are interpreted, or you could propose relevant questions to the person you are communicating with to ensure there is a clear understanding.
The Power of Thoughts and Words
There is great power in our words. Words can hurt and words can help. Words can be kind and words can be mean. There are a few common word phrases that we use that can be related to effective communication:
This has two meanings. The first word is an agreement, and the second word means there’s another opinion coming that could be positive or negative. It sets the tone that an opinion is going to be expressed. These words are often referred to as communication blockers. Listen when you speak, do you often use these two words?
“Yes, and … “
These two words are a better option in communicating. It still allows you to express your opinion, but it has a much calmer and positive connotation. These two words have the power to improve the energy surrounding the discussion. It acknowledges and validates the opinion of the other person and his or her point of view. It also keeps a nice flow of communication between the two parties. These simple two words can make the difference in engaging in negative disagreements that go nowhere, and effective positive communication with direction and purpose.
“Got to…”, “Have to…”, and “Must…”
These words can be both empowering and disempowering. These words usually set the tone that there is no choice for the other person. Be careful of the words you choose.
Be aware of what this word can mean when communicating. This would have been known to exemplify some form of guilt. For example, you say, “I should go exercise otherwise I will gain weight.” The way you use the word “should” means that you will have a negative feeling, such as feeling bad for not doing something.
“Never”, “Forever”, and “Always”
These words have very definite generalizations about something, which may not even be true. Statements that use these words give the perception of directness in a negative sense. These words don’t necessarily reflect the reality of the situation or discussion. These words are not clear and are not part of effective communication.
This is a commonly used word, with an interesting meaning. Have you ever heard someone say, “Can you try and pick that up for me?” You cannot try to do something. You either do it, or you don’t. Another example is asking someone to do something for you, and he or she replies with the word ‘try’. You can gracefully assume that your request will not get done.
The Feedback Sandwich
Feedback is important in ensuring that your message has been communicated clearly. Feedback can be given and received to ensure effective understanding of the spoken message. It is essential to have an open mind and accept the feedback, whether it is positive or negative, for the focus can remain on clear communication; it shouldn’t be taken personally.
Giving and receiving feedback can be difficult, but it is beneficial and effective – it is what makes up the ‘feedback sandwich. A feedback sandwich refers to the possibility of feedback containing criticism surrounded by praise. This type of feedback allows both the speaker and listener to view what may be perceived as the negatives in a constructive manner.
It means that you should begin your response to what is communicated with a positive statement, state what you don’t understand, what may need more clarification, or what may need to be improved, followed by another positive statement. This is the full feedback sandwich approach for effective communication.
Here are some helpful tips to remember when practicing effective communication:
- Positive or negative feedback should always be directed only towards what is said without any words that could be interpreted as being attacking.
- Feedback should never be personal.
- Avoid direct feedback towards a person based on his or her character.
- Feedback should be constructive and focused on the discussion.
When offering positive statements of feedback, they should be focused on the person’s desired behavior and what is being discussed. At no time do you want to divert the focus from what is being discussed to something, for example, that is directed towards boosting one’s ego.
The recipient of the feedback should walk away from the conversation more informed about what was being discussed, rather than walking away with just a good feeling that has no purpose to what is being communicated.
Both the praise and criticism of what is being discussed can begin with statements such as:
“I really liked it when you said _____.”;
“When you said _____, I noticed that you______.”; and
“I thought your use of _____ was really _____.”
As part of the feedback of criticism, it should always be clear to what is being discussed. It must be objective and use “I” statements, rather than “you” statements. When saying “you,” it becomes personal and can be taken as a personal attack, instead of constructive criticism. When giving this type of feedback, it is always good to have realistic suggestions and alternatives to what is being discussed, if necessary.
Constructive criticism is much more than just being nice. It is a way to remain focused on the topic of discussion, and the person. Always be clear about the feedback in its pertinence to the discussion. Avoid vague statements that may leave the other person with more questions or confusion. It should always be said at the relevant time of the conversation after attentive listening has been completed. The criticism should remain specific and be within the person’s control. Always avoid words such as ‘always’ and ‘never’, which starts to become too personal.
Giving constructive criticism can be given publicly or privately, depending on the situation and the sensitivity of the topic. You never want to embarrass someone in front of others. If there is even a chance that the criticism may be taken the wrong way, do so in private.
To complete the packaging of the feedback sandwich:
- Use non-verbal communication and techniques of respect.
- Allow your eyes and body gestures to express your feelings in a positive manner.
- Pause between your comments of praise and criticism, and control the tone of your voice.
- Allow the other person the opportunity to respond with his or her feedback.
Communication is a two-way street.
When involved in communicating with others, you can decide if you need to use the feedback sandwich process or not, depending on the situation. Most often, it is used in business-related communication when issues are being discussed. Listen and study what is being said before responding.
With effective communication skills, you can be assured that what you speak is clearly interpreted. Clear communication and understanding the different parts of effective communication can make daily life go by much easier in many situations.
There are three items worth remembering when communicating:
- Be clear and concise in both written and spoken language. Avoid big words, run-on sentences and unclear phrasing.
- In certain situations, such as the work environment, keep clear written or audio records of conversations that may need clarification in the future.
- Keep feedback actionable by giving actionable directions
Make a conscious effort in listening to the way you communicate daily. This may assist you in determining the type of communication hindering words that you may use without realizing it. Even consider asking a close friend or family member for feedback, but remember to be open to the feedback and not take it personally.
Write down the common words you use that you want to avoid and think of replacements. The replacement words or phrases can be more constructive and positive, rather than authoritative. Once you have established this – practice, practice, practice. You may be well-surprised at the difference this little change can make in your communication with others and how it can improve your life.