“He never seems to understand what I am saying.”
“No matter how hard I try, she just does not get it.”
These kinds of saying are common in our offices. Whether we are team members or team leaders, we often find ourselves trying to communicate more clearly. And despite our best efforts, we still fall short.
Communication is a large issue in nearly every company. Poor communication often leads to feeling confused, disconnected, and unengaged, In fact, one Gallup study indicated that only 32% of employees feel engaged and connected to their work in the U.S., but only 13% feel that way worldwide. That is big problem. In fact, it’s a problem that costs us tens of billions of dollars each year.
So what can we, as millennial team members or team leaders, do to get better at communicating clearly? What can we do to make sure the work we do does not suffer from communication issues?
Here is one answer: By observing how people think.
Listen First to Communicate Clearly
Observation is becoming a lost art in life and work. If we have a question, we go to Google. If we want to learn something, then we look for a listicle that can give us 3, 5, 7, or 10 steps to learning or doing something. The internet puts the world in a 4.7 inch screen in our hands, and it enables us to let Google do the thinking for us. Instead of determining the answers on our own, we outsource our observation skills to Google.
What does this have to do with communication issues at work? If we want to communicate clearly, should we just read more articles about communication techniques?
No. We should focus on the people all around us. When we are intentionally observing our surroundings, we are often able to see the roadblocks that prevent us from communicating effectively. The solutions to our frustrations become painfully obvious, which allows us to better communicate with others.
So exactly what are we observing? Whenever we learn something new, a musical instrument, cooking, sports, etc., we learn the basics. Over time, as we master the basics, we begin learning more advanced concepts. Eventually, we are able to observe why people are great at the thing we are learning.
The same progression is true in observing our team and understanding how they think. Before we become globally-recognized experts in understanding people, we must first learn a few basics as to how people generally think.
Once we get better at understanding the basic ways people think, then we will become more skilled at quickly understanding how to better communicate with people. Eventually, we will be experts in the art of adapting our style to better communicate with others.
Know Learning Styles
When it comes to the basics of how people think, it can be broken up into three big areas: see, hear, feel. Each of the areas can be observed by listening intentionally to the words people use on a regular basis.
Someone who prefers to see things will often talk about vision, or use phrases like “This appears to be.” Someone who is better at hearing things will make comments like “I hear you saying this” or “Let’s discuss this further.” Someone who is better at feeling things will make it painfully obvious by saying something like “I feel this way” or “I am struggling to grasp this.”
Each of these three thinking styles is present on your team. You probably even decided your thinking style when you read the brief descriptions above. Maybe you even thought of a few team members who thinking style seems obvious now. No matter how you reacted, you are now responsible to act.
So what do you do now? You can start by using those simple definitions to help you to listen for clues as to how people think. When you are in meetings, chatting around coffee, or talking at lunch, listen closely to the words people use when people share their thoughts. Pay attention to how they share what they share. Over time, you will get a strong grasp of everyone’s primary thinking style.
But what do you do once you know this information? You are now responsible for adjusting your communication style to fit the primary style of the listener.
If you are talking to a visual person, then cast a vision or use images to highlight your point. If you are talking to someone has a listening style, then talk directly to them. If you are talking to someone who is primarily a feelings person, then talk about how the project or task can make them feel.
Regardless of the specific style, you are responsible for adjusting in order to better connect with people. In fact, this approach shows that you care about truly connecting with those on your team or those you lead. Your efforts will not go unnoticed, as you will build trust and respect from your team.
Over time, they will be more engaged, more aligned, and more connected to their work. All of this will happen simply because you decided to listen intently to what they were already telling you.
And that is how you improve at communicating clearly, by focusing first on the people to which you are communicating.