The ability to listen closely and articulate ideas effectively
What is it?
Communication is the ability of one person to transmit his or her ideas in a clear way while another person accurately interprets that message through active listening and open inquiry. To understand what another person is saying is at the heart of meaningful dialog. Once one person understands, he or she can respond appropriately. If there was no initial understanding, the response will likely be off-target.
Why is it important?
Communication is the life blood of teams, departments, and organizations. Without good communication, inefficiency and frustration are likely to occur. If a subordinate doesn’t know exactly what his or her boss wants, how can he or she deliver? Effective communication at the corporate level, the team level, and the individual level is a prerequisite for a well-run organization.
Be a Good Listener
The first thing we can do is learn to listen better. We must seek first to understand before being understood. Two excellent skills that are sure to improve our ability to listen are the use of probing questions and paraphrasing. Probing questions are open-ended questions that help us understand what another person is saying. We can ask, “Tell me more about how you arrived at that opinion?” or “What evidence are you using to draw that conclusion?” This invites the speaker to tell us his or her deductive process. Another skill is to paraphrase what we think we’ve heard. “So, you think we should change our marketing strategy and only pursue potential customers that have over $50 million in sales? Am I hearing you correctly?” Once you’ve arrived at an accurate understanding, you can respond appropriately. If he or she corrects you, then you have another opportunity to get it right. Either way, the quality of communication is enhanced.
Be Firm but Respectful
Secondly, we need to have the courage to assert our own ideas. To do so, we should have hard data and compelling evidence that supports our position and articulate it as we share our ideas. Another way to make a persuasive argument is to use anecdotes or case studies to make our point. Both methods can be effective but the bottom line is to provide support to your ideas.
Adapt to Audience
Finally, we need to understand our audience in order to communicate effectively. Presenting to a board of directors might need a different communication style than sharing the new corporate strategy with colleagues. The board might be more interested in the financial implications whereas your colleagues might be more concerned about how that will change standard operating procedures. We must adapt the content, tone, and communication strategy based upon what is most appropriate for our audience.