Communicate Well - Five Tips for Healthy Communication
As you dig out of the snow (for those of us on the East Coast) and into the work of the New Year, it might be a beneficial time to pay attention to communication styles and, specifically, how to communicate in a healthier manner. We are assaulted with communication in many different forms and formats and expected to absorb information at an increasingly high rate and, often, while distracted.
Here are five tips for healthy communication:
Use a common language. When talking to or texting with someone, pay attention to how much they know about the subject matter. It is very easy, especially in business, to misinterpret an acronym or a technical word, leading a conversation down a rabbit hole, or worse creating costly mistakes and misunderstandings.
Listen with respect. Often we assume we understand the other personâ€™s point of view, knowledge, or perspective or anticipate what they are going to say. As a result we half listen, misinterpret, or cut them off. This can lead to misunderstandings and mistakes as well as damage to relationships. Listening non-judgmentally with full attention and repeating back the essence, when appropriate, can be a huge step forward in these communications.
Step away. When we are angry, stressed or frustrated, Cortisol courses through our systems making it really difficult to respond appropriately (and that Cortisol stays in our systems for hours after the stressful or frustrating event happened). Recognize when you are feeling a sub-optimal emotion and step away from the conversation. Even a few deep cleansing breaths can help you better respond.
Pay attention to body language. If you are indicating disinterest by your body language, your eyes darting to the screen in front of you, or your attention clearly shifting to a different conversation, you are not going to have an effective, successful communication with the person in front of you regardless of what you or they say. If it is really necessary to respond to a text or to answer a phone call, apologize and explain that you need to do so rather than trying to multi task, which few of can do and which conveys a message of disrespect or disinterest.
Practice healthy meetings. In meetings, take frequent breaks and have people stretch at a moment when everyone is stuck. Define decision points and action items, start and end meetings on time, and provide water and healthy snacks. Have a clearly articulated agenda going into a meeting and identify action items and next steps at the end of the meeting with a follow up email if appropriate.
Accept that communication is hard and we all make mistakes. If you or someone else has a communication flub or mishap, perhaps accept that we are all just doing the best we can, graciously acknowledge the mistake or accept an apology, and move forward with no lingering bad feelings.
Listen closely, validate what you think you heard, and respond appropriately. If your initial reaction is driven by anger, fear or stress, check in with yourself before responding. Be quick to forgive or to ask forgiveness when conversations take a bad turn. We sometimes mistake accessibility for urgency, just because we can respond immediately, it does not mean that we have to. A deep cleansing breath, a moment of reflection, and a genuine connection to the other person can go a long way towards improved communication and increased efficiency in the work place.
I have often seen projects, programs, and strategic plans fail or not be fully implemented. One of the contributing factors is often a work force that is over-stressed, unhealthy, and not committed to the end result. At the same time, corporate health and wellness programs tend to be underutilized with employees not taking advantage of available opportunities.
One common key component of successful strategic planning, successful programs, and successful project management is a fully engaged workforce. By incorporating health and wellness into these efforts, rather than having health and wellness programs as separate functions, the employees have a voice in what is included in the program and see their ability to influence corporate strategies. They are also more likely to embrace these strategies. In my experience, including employee wellness in corporate strategies demonstrates the organizationâ€™s commitment to their employees and leads to a more productive, healthier, more creative, and more engaged workforce.
My focus is working with organizations to help them grow and reach the next level.