Three Keys to Effective Communication
By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
Have you ever had problems during a design job or within your design firm? It would probably be more effective to say, “who hasn’t”, but did you ever think about the crux of the matter? Let’s say you arrive on the job, the new flooring has been installed, but the old carpet is still sitting in the middle of the front yard. In nearly every instance the problem lies in the lack of effective communication. One party sent communication to the other party but there was a breakdown in the “transmission”.
Effective communication occurs only if the receiver understands the exact information or idea that the sender intended to transmit. But there is an additional step in the “effective” communication process — knowing how to give feedback so that the sender knows the message is received.
As the CEO of your company it is particularly important that you are an effective communicator AND that you educate your team in this process also. Help them to understand that time, money, and physical resources will be saved, to say nothing of the positive effects on your firm’s reputation.
There are three elements that are needed to be a more effective communicator:
- Learn to send effective messages.
- Learn effective listening.
- Understand the value of feedback.
In the standard communication model a message is sent to the “receiver”. The message might be ideas, a design concept, data, or even feelings and that message can be sent in a variety of ways such as verbal, written, facial expressions or body language. The receiver then “decodes” the message using both content and context. At this point miscommunication can easily occur. For example, you make a statement which you feel is very clear, but as words and phrases can often have various meanings, your statement might be misinterpreted. To add to the confusion, the “content” of your statement might say one thing but the “context” of your body language, tone of voice, or state of emotion may say something completely different.
Then, when you add “filters” to the communication process, things such as preset ideas/perception, frame of reference, poor listening habits, culture, distractions, etc., the receiver may have preset ideas and hear only what they expect to hear, or tune out part of or all of the message as not important. Or they may not be familiar with the words being used and picture something else entirely.
What is clear is that the responsibility for effective communication rests with both the sender and the receiver. How do we accomplish that?
- By sending effective messages — clear, allowing for feedback and no assumptions.
- Effectively receiving messages — “parrot”, paraphrase, and summarize to be sure you correctly received the message that was sent.
- Truly listening to what is said — most people never learn to listen well!
As George Bernard Shaw said so well: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”