Communication Skills Gap
Nearly every job posting lists “good communication skills” as a requirement. Nearly every job candidate claims to be a skilled communicator. But let’s face it, communication deficiencies remain rampant. They are at the root of nearly all business problems and challenges. The same applies to friends and family.
Mere experience with using a voice, a pen or a keyboard, doesn’t qualify you as a good communicator.
Not News: A Timeless Challenge
This is far from being breaking news. The 1967 Academy Award winning film, Cool Hand Luke provided us with a classic line that’s still used today to describe our most problematic skill deficiency.
“What we’ve got here is (a) failure to communicate”
Here’s a 40 second video replay.
And, here is a newer expression of communication reality; complete with big words…
As humans, we spend over 70% of our waking hours communicating in some form: writing, reading, speaking, listening. So could it fair to conclude that over 85% of dysfunction and conflict relates to communication failures? Whatever the number, we can all gain by communicating more effectively.
So with the help of some really articulate sources, I’ve compiled seven ways to help you reduce the amount of dysfunctional communication both professionally and personally.
7 Secrets to Effective Communication
1. Inside-Out Communication: Start With Why
Because humans are emotional beings, our actions are most often driven by our feelings. Author Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why, explains both why it’s important to share our beliefs up front and how effective leaders have done it generate spectacular success. Inside-Out Communication can be game changing for those who develop their skills to apply The Golden Circle. For more, link to my lessons in Inside-Out Communication.
2. - "First Seek to Understand Then to be Understood"
This is Habit #5 in Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People via St. Francis of Assisi. Seeking to understand requires:
- Asking with genuine interest
- Listening with empathy
If you truly want to be perceived as an interesting person, you need to start by being interested. This is both a mindset and a skill set.
3. - Less Telling and More Asking
Influencing via asking is far from the next new, new thing. In ancient Greece, Socrates challenged his students with thoughtful, strategic use of questions. More recently, Peter Drucker tells us…
“The leader of the past knew how to tell. The leader of the future will know how to ask.”
When your questions enable others to discover the value of your ideas for themselves, are they more or less likely to take action? How do you respond when you’ve pondered to the point of agreement?
4. - Become An Accountable Communicator
For communication to achieve its purpose you need to play two different roles:
- The Sender (speaker or author)
- The Receiver (listener or reader or viewer)
When communication fails, how often do you blame the other person for their failure in one of these two roles? What if you stopped playing The Blame Game and instead took full responsibility in each of your roles as sender and receiver? What if you established an environment where everyone in your circle was equally responsible? What would happen to the amount of dysfunctional communication in your world?
5. - Become A More Active and Empathetic Listener
There’s a reason we have two ears and only one mouth. But how many of us act accordingly? Effective influencing requires achieving a high level of rapport. In the words of John C. Maxwell: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Are you trying so hard to be interesting that you fail to be genuinely interested? Here’s a quick litmus test challenge for you. Ask your spouse, significant other, best customer, or someone else you who knows you well:
“Where do I rank among the caring listeners that you know?”
Be prepared for a humbling response.
6. Self Awareness
Are you an introvert? An extrovert? Are you a highly detail orientated perfectionist? Or do you prefer to discuss things at a higher level and avoid minutia? As you improve your self-awareness, you can more effectively moderate our style to fit that of your audience.
7 - Audience Awareness
In communicating either individually or with small groups of collaborators, knowledge of the preferences of others will allow you to connect at a higher level. As develop the ability to detect and adapt to another person’s communication preferences, you’ll connect like never before. Sources include:
- Understanding of DISC (behavior style profiles)
- NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), your ability to influence both large and small groups
- Matching body language
I must caution you that self-awareness, secret #6, is a prerequisite to applying understanding others (Secret #7).
A Quick Fix?
In our world that includes high-speed internet, microwave ovens and drive through windows, we’re accustomed to instant gratification. Just reading these words will not allow you to flip a switch and instantly unlock the secrets. Implementing them requires breaking old habits and developing new skills and mindsets. Your communication habits have taken a lifetime to develop. Habits can not be replaced in minutes. Developing high level skills require an investment of time and effort. Trial and error. Professional Coaching perhaps?
Like any good investment, the dividends can be highly rewarding. If you could make that 70% of your day more effective and minimize the dysfunction and conflict, how much more could you achieve?