Communication consumes us. It defines us. It goes a long way toward defining our success or failure. And, it’s a two-part process. One process involves sending messages, and the other involves receiving messages. The average person spends about 17 hours each day communicating. Have you thought about what kind of messages you are sending and receiving?
Consider these statistics on how we communicate:
- We spend 7.5 hours listening
- We spend 3 hours reading
- We spend 5 hours talking
- We spend 1.5 hours writing
If you believe your communication skills are lacking, these numbers might scare you. Yet, before you go hiding in your “she-shed” with your cat named Dragon Princess (or your man cave, if applicable), take comfort knowing that we all miscommunicate from time to time, whether we are the sender or the receiver.
Now, think about this pivotal question: Who is responsible for messages being understood: the sender, or the receiver? It’s a trick question, for the answer is…both. Why do simple differences of opinion sometimes escalate? Why do many corporate engagement surveys cite “better communication” as the most frequent improvement suggestion? The answer is responsibility. The responsibility of communication lies with the sender and the receiver—and we don’t always hold ourselves accountable on both sides of the equation.
Consider some of the most prevalent factors that lead to breakdowns in communication, in business and in life:
- Generational gaps
- Cultural differences
- Language barriers
- Family and personal interests and pursuits
- Technology issues
Regardless of the factors in play, everyone involved – senders and receivers – should take responsibility for helping to develop and deploy effective communication. Senders must make sure that information they convey – verbally or electronically is easy to understand and has been properly received. Receivers must make sure that communications they receive make sense to them, and that they understand next steps. If there’s any uncertainty, they should respond with appropriate questions.
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Communication becomes easier and more productive when each person takes ownership of what and how they are communicating. Knowing just that can help reshape your approach toward communications, and hopefully enhance it. But let’s go a step further. There are three main methods in which we communicate:
- Non-verbal – this includes your appearance, attitude and body language–and it most significantly impacts how people perceive you in face-to-face interactions.
- Verbal – this includes what you say and how you say it. Things that impact verbal communication include volume, pitch, rate and tone. Verbal communication is one of the key contributors to perception, whether it occurs over the phone or in person.
- Written – Written communication also imparts key information about us to readers.
Effective communications takes into account the specific audience and utilizes the appropriate communication method (or methods) to create a consistent, clear message. The best communications also are thorough and involve a two-way exchange of information. It takes understanding and control of all three methods to effectively shape your communications to fit your intended audience.
If all this still seems overwhelming, and you’re not sure where to start in your journey of optimizing communications, Skoda Minotti’s Human Resources Group offers an array of communication-based training for organizations of all sizes and scopes, including a basic Communication Skills course, and courses on The Birkman Method, Emotional Intelligence, Conflict Resolution using the Thomas Kilmann Model and Communicating Effectively With Your Manager.
Do you have questions about building effective communication throughout your organization, or other human resources issues? Contact Jennifer Wintrow at 440-449-6800 or email Jennifer.