It’s back to school time and a reminder that we should all stop working so hard and start working smarter. Stop sawing and sharpen the saw.
When it comes to challenges in the workplace, communication is an area that seems to impact just about everyone. More specifically: communication breakdowns.
A great book on the subject is I Hear You: Repair Communication Breakdowns, Negotiate Successfully, and Build Consensus . . . in Three Simple Steps by Donny Ebenstein.
In the book Ebenstein discusses the behavioral change needed in you in order to move from being stuck to unstuck; the importance of shifting your perspective to really understand the other side; looking from the outside to be more objective of your perspective; and how to use role-play to practice these skills so they become second nature.
As you probably noticed, it is all focused on what you can do to fix these communication breakdowns, even though our tendency to blame others for this breakdown.
Unlike choosing our friends, however, we rarely select those we work with. And even if it is others who are responsible for the breakdown, we need to find a way to communicate effectively with them.
Using the steps outlined in this book, you can learn how making small behavioral changes in how you interact can dramatically shift the conversation.
For example, an important aspect for improving communication is to give legitimacy to the other person’s point of view. This can be difficult, but it is essential for bridging the gap, truly understanding the other’s perspective, and to avoid appearing condescending towards them.
Giving legitimacy to another’s perspective means fully listening and demonstrating that you really heard what they said by paraphrasing back. There is no substitute for this and it really enables the other to trust that they have been heard.
Another important point is to put your self in the other person’s shoes. Not just from on the surface, but by fully understanding how you would feel if you saw things from their perspective.
These ideas aren’t revolutionary, of course, but actually implementing them into the way we interact is rare. You may find the whole practice awkward and people may bristle when they first witness your new behavior, but in the end it will help restore trust and reduce misunderstandings.
The speed of business is increasing faster and faster, and this means it’s vital that we take time to stop, reflect on what we’re doing, acknowledge our mistakes, and change course if needed and/or redirect our time and resources. It is also paramount that we continue learning.
Resolving communication breakdowns may be one of the most common and yet fixable problems in every workplace. Waiting for others around you to change is foolish. You need to actively do your part to overcome the impasse.
This means stepping up to the challenge by investing your time and energy into demonstrating your compassion and openness to truly hear and empathize with the other’s perspective. It means being courageous enough not to take things personally and try to stay focused on the bigger picture.
Those who want to stay competitive in business should always be on the lookout for ways to improve their skills and value to the organization. If you find communication breakdowns are impacting your effectiveness, read Ebenstein’s book and implement this strategy to mend communication breakdowns.