To communicate well, is to be understood and to understand. Communication is key to effective leadership. In fact, it is integral in much of our lives. Anecdotally, experience has consistently demonstrated that most issues in business are, at least in part, caused by poor communication.
Are there different levels of communication effectiveness?
In recent years whilst coaching, I have developed a concept regarding the effectiveness of communication. It highlights the need for depth in conversation. To verbally communicate well provides meaning and purpose. It allows for understanding and often, clarity and context. Purpose influences action and improvement. Unfortunately, many managers do not develop this skill to the level required.
Ultimately, our relationships are better for the higher levels of trust and the investment this provides for future communication opportunities.
Essentially, we can communicate at various levels of depth. However, most business communication (and that at home too!) often occurs at a moderate and superficial level, at best. I would describe this as a level 1 or 2 type of communication. Our goal is to develop the skill and capability to flex to level 3 and 4, where relevant. To communicate at level 5 takes quite a bit of practice, but is worth the effort and investment.
To communicate effectively we need to move beyond the superficial, to greater depths.
This is particularly important when leading people. The goal is to be heard and understood. Critically, this is as important for your team member or colleague in return. This is achieved when both parties invest in gaining a mutual understanding.
As I have highlighted in previous blogs, the skills of asking the right question at the right time and effective listening are two of the most important leadership attributes to develop.
There are certain situations in our life that call for us to dig deep and talk about what is really important to us. When the stakes are high it is important that we communicate effectively, if we are misunderstood in these important moments it can cause much pain and confusion. When we wish to build trust in a relationship, or when we want to be sure we are really heard, things go much better if we can communicate what we want to say fully and authentically. In reality this is no small thing to achieve and it requires both courage and vulnerability.
We often communicate only half of what is really going on for us.
If we are to truly communicate then we need to share all of who we are, not just selected parts of ourselves. The parts that tend to get left out in communication are the things that may make us vulnerable to the other, or cause us some shame or discomfort. Yet these are the very parts of ourselves that we need to share…it is necessary to express these things if we want true communication to flow. (1)
The diagram below extends this concept. The 5 levels of effective communication mentioned already are described in further detail. The goal is to develop your communication skills to at least Level 3.
Why does it matter to communicate effectively?
The benefits of developing your communicating skills are many. Through practice, when we communicate well, there is feeling of power and influence.
It’s easy to get stuck in poor communication habits, speaking or reacting impulsively rather than supportively. But any uncomfortable feelings raised in a difficult conversation can be a short-term inconvenience for a long-term gain if you talk in an honest, open manner.
Supportive communication improves your relationships by focusing on empathy and mindfulness, and it can also help increase positive emotions such as joy, hope, peace, gratitude and love. The body responds to these emotions by reducing stress hormones and increasing endorphins, also known as “feel good” chemicals. Over time, these effects can cause positive changes in mindset and creativity, as well as increase immune function and longevity. (2)
A significant amount of my time when coaching people focuses on their ability to communicate effectively. Effective communication is a skill, attribute and outcome.
The opportunity to invest in your communication skills is one that you must grab with both hands if you want to be a more effective influencer, manager, leader and human. It is difficult to think of a more relevant time in recent history where effective communication has been more important.
Consider the information and model detailed in this blog and assess your own skills and importantly, your actions. All of us have the opportunity to improve our communication. The benefits are clear. Making the choice to do so…well, that is up to you.
References and Resources
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