Communication skills are largely underated in today's world. There seems to be a smaller and smaller number of people who are really concerned with communicating and working well with others. The mantra of the day is more along the lines of 'the means justify the ends' or at least people seem to be more focused on getting what they want and getting it right now no matter what the cost. The funny thing is that they are often cutting off their nose to spite their face. They may achieve a short term objective but in the long run this poor communication will come back and haunt them in the form of misunderstandings and inaccurate expectations.
I believe that good communication skills are extremely valuable and that you can spend a lifetime learning how to communicate well and honing your skills. One of the most important aspects of your communication is having a clear sense of what you want to accomplish. I love the saying that 'if you don't know where you are going, you are never going to get there'. This definitely applies to communicating with people.
That is not to say that every time you speak with someone you should be preoccupied with what you want to get from the communication. Very often you are communicating for enjoyment, you might be expressing your thoughts and feelings to a friend. But just as often, you are trying to work with someone, complete a transaction, or perhaps get help with a particular problem you might have. In these cases if you know your objective, and you are able to keep your goal in sight you have a much greater chance of a successful dialogue.
So, a simple suggestion that I would put to you is that the next time you go in to a meeting, or talk with your boss, or your employer take a moment beforehand and just ask yourself, "What do I want to come out of this encounter having accomplished?" You don't need to focus on it during the conversation, simply ask yourself that question and then answer it before you walk into the conversation. This can be a simple but powerful way to be much more effective in your communication and it will help you to keep on task and avoid any unnessary and sometimes negative side tracks.
In addition to asking you to get clear about what outcome you want in a conversation, I'd also like to take a moment to describe some of the terrain that you will cross as you try and get there. Again, there are many, many tactics or techniques that you can try in your communications, these are not what I would like to talk about. Rather, the ideas that follow describe some of the basic categories of communication that will happen as you try to achieve your goal. And, knowing what you have types of ground you are going to cross will really help you to 'keep your eye on the prize' and achieve your goals in communicating.
The following concepts were taken from 'Messages; The Communication Skills Book' by Matthew McKay, Ph.D., Martha Davis, Ph.D. and Patrick Fanning. I have absolutely no affiliation with any of the authors or publishers, but I highly recommend this book. The authors talk about how you can divide your communications into one of four different categories: observation, thoughts, feelings, and needs. These categories will help you determine the outcome that you are aiming for.
- Observations: Statement of simple fact, this type of communication reports what your senses are telling you.
- Thoughts: Conclusions or inferences that you take from your own experiences.
- Feelings: Often the most difficult type of communication, this kind of communicaiton will sometimes include anger.
- Needs: A simple statement about what you want or what will please you.
A whole message, that is, a complete messge will include all of these types of communication and understanding this fact along with knowing what you want to achieve in your communication will be a great help in getting you where you want to go.