Chris Liles - Are you a poor communicator?

Recently I attended a Business Partners meeting called by supplier of the personality profiles I use when relationships coaching.

There were 20 of us from around the UK plus a simultaneous Skype conference call from New Zealand, India, Poland and Germany.

I sat there listening to the multitude of accents and marvelling that the NZ representative was still in work mode at midnight his time! We all had a common language i.e. English and valuable interactions resulted from this technology-fuelled coming-together of Partners from around the Globe.

The Human Race can now achieve a phenomenal level of communication thanks to satellite and other technologies. So, why is it I still regularly encounter people who cannot communicate with each other face to face?

Having specialised in repairing or boosting business relationships since 1992, I can state that in every case the root cause was a communication breakdown.

'Oh I didn't mean that at all!' 'Do they really think that about me?!' 'He/she never gives me feedback.' 'Well how was I supposed to know that?!' 'That's not what they told me!' 'Their email was really aggressive.'

Those are typical exclamations which emerge once I have used my expertise to help people stand back and gain perspective about the offending issue.

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Do you fail to communicate too? Most of you will answer 'no' which is what the majority of 'villains' in my line of work profess.

Is there anyone in your team that you value highly but whom you rarely praise? Have you issued brief verbal orders and assumed the recipient fully understands? Do you relay instructions via a third party? Are you more focused on the task than the people implementing it? In the comfort of your own mind, if you put your hands up to even one of those, you have indeed failed to communicate effectively.

That word 'effectively' is the crux.

Wiktionary defines 'empathy' as 'capacity to understand another person's point of view or the result of such understanding'. My definition is simply putting yourself in other people's shoes.

If more of you out there in managerial positions achieved that, your workplace would be far happier. Normally you are too busy dealing with pressures heaped upon you to be able to really empathise with the issues faced by your team. If you agree with that then my same comments probably apply to your bosses. Have you ever considered that before?

So how can you exhibit empathy?

Simple, review those exclamations above and prevent them happening.

• Ask questions to ensure your message has been accurately received.

• If you did not fully understand your instructions, be assertive and seek clarification.

• Do not talk behind people's backs, it is cowardly and very poor communication.

• Re-read your emails to ensure they are complete and unlikely to be misconstrued.

• Offer praise whenever it is warranted. It is a prime people-motivator and costs you nothing.

That list could be as extensive as the number of human interactions that take place, but I am sure you follow my recommendation.

Do not sit there smugly telling yourself this is a problem generated by other people. That is what many of my clients wrongly believed. I consider when communication breaks down, any blame is split 50:50 between the two parties involved. Apply my business motto that 'You don't have to be ill to get better', then consciously place yourself in your team's or colleague's shoes and you will communicate superbly. Am I right?

Chris Liles - Business Mentor