Great Communication is More Than Great Words
Great communication is far more complex than simply choosing the right words. While articulating ideas accurately and concisely is essential, we also need to consider other important factors. Here are five variables to keep in mind:
- Active Listening – Communication is a two-way street. Most of us need to be better listeners, especially in today’s world, where we are distracted by cell phones, computers, social media and devices. I first learned about active listening from PET (Parent Effectiveness Training) in Action by Thomas Gordon when I was an undergraduate, and it’s still pertinent. Active listening involves listening with all your senses rather than just hearing what’s been said.
- Appropriate Timing – Delivering praise right away is usually OK, but criticism may need to wait. Timing is everything. People usually know when they’ve made a mistake and don’t appreciate someone pointing it out right away when emotions are high. When providing critical feedback it’s best to have a plan to be helpful, not hurtful.
- Tone (emotion) – The tone needs to match the message. When evaluating and teaching other coaches through the National Soccer Coaches Association of America I’ve seen coaches screaming at their team to “relax,” or hearing a coach say, “we need more energy” in a monotone voice, or explaining how a particular loss is not the end of the world while sounding like they’re reading an obituary.
- Nonverbal – Most experts agree that 80-90 percent of communication is nonverbal. Nonverbal communication can relay an array of messages like confidence, optimism, excitement, worry, concern, nervousness, or fear, just to name a few. Nonverbal communication can lead us to send unintended or contradictory messages to the words we say. I review video recordings of my presentations, lectures, meetings, and coaching to help improve my nonverbal communication.
- Environment – The location of your communication should be appropriate for the purpose of the meeting. Should you meet at your office, their office, or a neutral site? How about over a meal, during a round of golf, or at a sporting event? There are other variables to consider like position relative to one another, standing or sitting, furniture, lighting, and door open or closed. Often we end up choosing a location out of convenience, rather than considering the most appropriate location.
The key to having great teamwork and relationships is effective communication. Communication is multifaceted and requires more than just a casual approach in order to be highly effective. The best communicators – whether they are teachers, coaches, managers, parents or great storytellers – know the importance of these five variables and are careful to consider each factor for a given situation. The goal is to create an environment where we are more likely to understand one another through careful and thoughtful communication.