As each day goes by I become more and more convinced of the importance of good communications in every facet of life. I hear every day at work how a lack of good communication impacts productivity and/or morale. Good communication is important in non-profit or church situations, and of course in family or personal relationships. To be effective, we need to communicate effectively.
There is much to be said on this subject, and I’ll have additional articles in the future. For now, I want to share four initial thoughts:
- Know when communication should be face to face. Just as Gary Chapman writes about our “love languages”, I believe we also have a primary communication language. You’re probably aware of those people who don’t respond to your emails, but almost instantly respond when you send them a text message. Other people prefer to communicate verbally on the phone. My communication language is email. But surpassing what our communication preference is, is the means of communication required for a particular situation. If you’re dealing with a sensitive issue, or what is referred to as a “crucial conversation”, your communication should be face to face if possible. If that is not possible, the next best means would be a phone call. Sending an email may be easiest or most convenient, but it’s probably not the best means of communication in those situations. Have you had situations when you sent an email when you really should have met face to face, or if that wasn’t possible picked up the phone?
- Tone in electronic communications. Related to the above item, the tone of an electronic (email or text) communication is open to interpretation by those who receive them. The tone that the receiver interprets is often based on their relationship with the person who sent the communication. For example, if I have a great relationship with you and you send me an email, I may not think anything about it. However, if I receive the exact same email from a colleague that I’ve had conflict with in the past, I may take it completely differently. So use good judgement about when to use electronic communications. If you have to communicate in this manner, and if it is with someone that you have not had the best relationship with in the past, even if the communication is routine in your eyes, be careful of how the receiver may interpret it. After you write it, read it from their perspective. How might they receive it? Then edit it as necessary until you are comfortable with it. Have you found yourself “reading” in a tone that perhaps may not be there because of who the communication is from?
- Communication to clarify roles and responsibilities on a team. Over the past few months I’ve heard of a few situations in which team dysfunction could have been eliminated and team harmony increased if the leaders would have taken the time to clarify roles and responsibilities of the team. By not doing so led to conflict, suspicion and dysfunction. If you are a leader, remember to do this, especially with a new team or when new team members are added to an existing team. If you are team member and see that this is needed, press your leader to do so. Have you been on teams when the lack of communication about roles and responsibilities has negatively impacted the team?
- To be effective, communication must be timely. My aim is to provide information in a timely manner with those I work with. There may be times I receive feedback on, or need to provide feedback to, a team member. I try to share that feedback promptly, rather than waiting for our next scheduled meeting. In other situations, I will receive information that others need in order to perform their jobs effectively. I owe it to them to get the information to them as soon as possible. There are many other situations in which it’s important to communicate in a timely manner. What are some examples that you can think of?
These are a few initial thoughts about good communications. More will come later in future articles. For now, what thoughts do you have on the subject of effective communications?