I might have not mentioned it in the blog, but I work for a tech company. My days are full of -tion words – localization, optimization, collaboration, integration – and all types of management – stakeholder management, project management, terminology management, or expectations management. The list can go on and on, but there is one -tion word which has a permanent spot in all of our lives – communication, and for that same reason it is often undervalued and neglected.
Without realizing it, we communicate in one way or another every single day, pretty much all day long. We communicate to buy that much needed coffee in the morning, we communicate to our colleagues to get things done at work, we communicate to our friends and family to keep those meaningful connections and bonds alive, we learn new languages to communicate and be understood abroad. We communicate with our voice, our gadgets, our gestures and facial expressions, our clothes (yes, I am not kidding – our fashion choices are just another way to communicate). Every day we send so many messages intentionally and so many more – unintentionally. And yet we do not often explicitly think whether we bring the right message across and whether we are understood in a way we intended it.
I am a firm believer that communication is a skill and not a talent that some are blessed with. It does take effort and time to acquire this skill and improve and some people do grasp it better than others, but still it is something that is accessible for everyone. But where do you start?
Key principle for communication broadly used in marketing is all about “ bringing the right message to the right audience at the right time in the right place”. However, if you think about it, this principle works not only when you want to sell something – it is equally relevant when you want to support a friend going through some difficult times. The only difference is that in social situations we often make those choices about message/ audience/ time/ place subconsciously and our decisions are driven by social norms and perception of what is contextually appropriate. However, even then it may get tricky.
So, what would you need to do to communicate more effectively (and trust me this will help you not only at work)?
Think of a key message that you want to bring across
You may think that you have so many great ideas that it is difficult to pick just one, but in reality if you do not focus on the key point you are trying to make, you risk losing the attention of your audience and having them remember a completely different idea to what you were really trying to convey.
Be conscious of your medium
Depending on your communication goal, target audience, importance of this specific message and other constraints, you go for different communication media. In one case you would want to have a longer face-to face meeting, while in another a simple text or email would be enough. In one case you would want to get more personal and informal, while in another – keep it strictly professional. And if you pick your medium right – chances are that you will be understood just the way you wanted.
Visual information is easier to consume
This is related to my previous point, but I really wanted to emphasise this: it is much easier for us to perceive and remember visual information (it is also scientifically proven, so it is not just imho). Now that you know it, the booming popularity of Instagram and Youtube make a lot more sense, right?
Be aware of cultural differences
We all grew up in different conditions which formed our perceptions of what is appropriate and what is not. I do realise that it is quite difficult to generalize these things to purely cultural differences, but this may help you to start moving into the right direction. It is cultural differences and being insensitive to them that may have even a harmless text cause some serious damage.
Be open and personal
Even in the most highly professional environment you are dealing with other humans just like you are, and you should not forget that. Simple things like being friendly, open and (when appropriate) personal will make you more relatable and pleasant to deal with, and in return you will be more likely to be heard.
I cannot claim that these tips will always save you from miscommunication disasters, but they will definitely help you to prevent some.
And now, tell me – would you be interested in topics like this on the blog?