If communication is a key life skill then effective communication must be the key skill of life!
Having worked in businesses for over 30 years I am amazed that we still haven’t cracked effective communication. Forget communication with external customers, I’m talking internal communication here.
In a world full of technology and ‘buzz words’ we create acronyms by the bucket load and use trendy words because they are trendy even though we don’t truly understand their meaning. Worse still if you ask a dozen people in a business what a word ‘really’ means to them you will get a dozen interpretations.
So how do we solve this communications enigma? For a start off, like all initiatives it must start at the top, with YOU. As a manager you must take personal responsibility for change. YOUR messages must be the clearest of all, with no chance for ambiguity or confusion.
Encourage everyone to say ‘exactly’ what they mean and mean ‘exactly’ what they say, although having said that, true communication is the responsibility of the recipient (the listener). When we hear something our brain tells us what the words mean based on OUR understanding. This is fine if our understanding is exactly the same as the person speaking the words but what are the chances of that?
Add into the mix the element of local dialect and slang as well as ‘youth speak’ (Who would have thought a few years ago that ‘wicked’ would mean ‘great’ and so did ‘sick’?
The more complex business we work in can also have an impact. I was working with a plastics company recently and the sheer diversity of product materials, shapes etc. was mind blowing! Guess what? They have a serious communication issues both internally and with their customers.
Do you remember the Four Candles (Fork Handles) sketch from the Two Ronnie’s? It is a perfect example of what happens in business every day. The shopkeeper hears something and assumes he knows what the client wants BUT doesn’t clarify. After searching for and fetching the wrong item he then has to search and look for the right one. This all takes time and in business time is of course money!
I have a simple communication solution in the form of an acronym (it’s OK as long as we all agree what it means). The acronym is ACE which stands for; Acknowledge, Clarify/Confirm, Empathy, and this is how it works:
When hearing a phrase or question and you want to ensure mutual understanding then first:
My favourite saying in communication is slow down, GO FASTER! This may take a little longer up front but mutual understanding at the outset will save far more time, effort and money in the long run.
Head of Training
Originally published: 7 August, 2013
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