You Are What You Eat (or Say)
By Jennifer Hutchison, Expert Content Specialist
When approaching criticism, take out the negativity and gently “fold” constructive tips into the mixture.
Communication also has the potential to end in triumph or disaster. While it’s true that anyone can communicate, like cooking, not everyone does it well. But that’s no reason to stay out of the kitchen! In fact, you owe it to both yourself and your company to learn how to communicate better.Think of your favorite meal. Whether it’s a fifteen-minute classic or a complex 5-course masterpiece, most likely there’s a list of ingredients with clear instructions behind it. Most people, at one point in their lives, have attempted to follow a recipe to cook their favorite dishes. Sometimes this ends in triumph, and sometimes it ends up in disaster. But the closer you follow the instructions, the more likely you’ll succeed.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” This is effective communication to a T. Being able to convey what you mean in a way that is easily understood by your listener is vitally important in today’s business world. Whether it’s managing your team, presenting a new idea, or simply chatting with a coworker, the way you approach the conversation is critical.
Here’s a couple of tips to help your company build the perfect communication recipe.
1. Add a dash of patience
Good communication, like good cooking, doesn’t happen without practice. Don’t jump at the first thing you hear. Take your time when making your point, and above all, listen to what the other person is saying. It’s vital to apply a great amount of patience when you are on the listening end, just like it pays to be patient when trying out a new recipe for the first time. You may not get it right the first time. Just take a breath and start over. Your patience will be rewarded in the end.
2. Break the eggs and your bad habits
Are you the victim of several bad communication habits? Are you always interrupting the speaker, or rushing through your points? The first step is to identify your problems. Ask for feedback from your team, or just pay attention to the things that irk them, then start replacing these bad habits with others that foster effective communication. For example, if your phone is always in your hand during conversations with others and you’ve noticed that your coworkers tend to glance at it during discussions, then pledge to put it away in order to concentrate on the communication in front of your face.
3. Avoid deflating the soufflé and derailing communication
How you say things is often more important than what you actually say. Making sure you have the right tools is another extremely important part of putting together a successful recipe. When cooking, you can use a whisk to manually make whipped cream, but using a mixer will get the job done quickly and efficiently, without wasting time. In communication, using generalizations, depersonalizing your message, and softening your words can derail your communication and waste time. For example, saying “That might not work” is not as firm as saying “No, that will not work and here’s why…” Explain your reasoning firmly and clearly. This will help open up a dialogue, leading to better communication and a stronger resolution.
4. Fold in the positive constructiveness
As with a delicate batter, you often have to “fold” your egg mixture into the rest of the concoction. This helps gently mix the ingredients and helps to end up with better results. When approaching criticism, take out the negativity and gently “fold” constructive tips into the mixture. Make sure you and your team practice being constructive more often than being critical. This doesn’t mean that you have to suppress your opinion (see rule #3). Instead, try to approach criticism from a positive angle. Focus on improving the other person’s awareness of the situation. For example, if they used wording that was wrong in a document, explain why the wording was incorrect and suggest other wording that they can use or examine instead. Always focus on being constructive, not destructive.
For many companies, both big and small, success is greatly affected by how we communicate with those around us. Like learning how to cook, building a team of strong communicators takes practice, effort, patience, and constant commitment on both the listener and speaker’s parts. With a little bit of time, salt, and patience, your team can start to enjoy the benefits of being able to communicate effectively and clearly, no matter what the situation is.
What do you think? What impact has clear communication made on your business? What other ways would you suggest for improving communication? Let us know below in the comments!