The title of this article makes a bold claim but the skill we’ll be looking at really and truly is the cornerstone of career growth and good leadership. In fact, it’s the cornerstone of successful outcomes in many areas of life. What is the skill? Good communication – how we listen, how we talk, how we show we understand others and how we present our position.
For a lot of people, their ability to communicate effectively is a skill that’s underdeveloped and doesn’t serve them as well as it could. When we step outside of ourselves and look at how we communicate there are almost certainly adjustments we could make to help us both listen and be heard more effectively. Before looking to improve our communication it’s helpful to do a quick communication health check to see what’s going well and what areas might need some development. This article will cover the health check and in the following article, we’ll look at the adjustments that can be made to improve communication.
You can monitor your communication across a day so you have material to help answer the questions or you can choose to just reflect on them:
Are you listening to talk? Do you find yourself thinking more about what you’re going to say than listening? Are you waiting for an opportunity to jump in or are you digesting what you hear and able to remember what people have said?
Do people really listen when you talk or do you lose their attention? Do you find that you get an engaged response when you talk to people or do you lose them?
Do people understand your points? Do people talk to the points you make and answer the questions you ask or do you have to re-explain and clarify things?
Are you listening with judgment or an open mind and curiosity? Have you already made your mind up about a person or a conversation before it’s started or are you interested to hear what they’ve got to say?
Do you mostly ask closed questions? Closed questions can only be answered with a yes or a no and tend to close down conversations rather than help them flow.
Are you firing questions or facilitating a conversation? -Do you mostly talk at people or with people? How much of the talking do you do in conversations? What is the balance like?
Do you think listening is worth your time? Do you have any negative feelings about communicating? Do you see the value in it or does it sometimes feel like a waste of time and something you want to speed up or cut short?
Do you communicate with agility? Do you match the pace of communication? Are you able to move between topics and find flexibility in your style of communication to best suit the scene or are you quite rigid and fixed?
What do you communicate nonverbally? What’s your body language, tone of voice, eye contact like?
Are you in your own head? How present are you when you communicate? Do you lose your concentration regularly or are you able to maintain focused and engaged?
There are a lot of questions there. Hopefully, they help you start to think about how you communicate and give you the opportunity to learn more about it. They don’t all need answering, focus on the ones that feel most beneficial to reflect on and go from there. They should shine a light on areas for improvement and highlight ways in which you may not be facilitating communication as effectively as you could be.
The next article will include some general tips about how you can improve your communication. A word of caution though, as with most things within the world of personal development this isn’t about seeking faultless communication and it’s also not about unhelpfully criticizing how we communicate already. This is about being curious, learning more about ourselves and taking the opportunity to develop for our own benefit and the benefit of those around us.