Are you ever worried that your communication isn’t perfect? Before your conversation (i.e. in your head), you know what you want to say and how you want to say it. You may have also considered what the other person’s thoughts or objections may be. You may even have learnt some new techniques (be it in training or coaching), but when put into practice it doesn’t quite work out.
But communication is rarely going to be perfect. No two moments are the same, and no two conversations will be the same. So, rather than give ourselves a hard time if our discussion didn’t go to plan, we have a great opportunity to learn from the imperfections!
Stressing out about a conversation, and trying to make it perfect, can only make it harder to do. And by being anxious, you also can’t be the most effective YOU.
I remember going into appraisals with my team, concerned about how I was going to say the right thing, especially if it was going to be thought of as criticism. How do I position it, when do I say it, will they accept it or will the barriers go up and we achieve nothing?
Human nature, and therefore communication, is complicated. We have different preferences, different working styles, different tolerances and different motivational needs. We also have different experiences and knowledge we draw upon when we enter any kind of communication. What we hear and how we feel about the conversation is based on our own personal thoughts, and not necessarily what is being said to us.
I’ve always loved this quote: “I know that you believe that you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant.” – Pentagon Spokesman, Robert McCloskey
But we can help ourselves get the best out of our communication style. By relaxing, and accepting that every conversation will be different, we take the pressure off. We are then activating our executive part of our brain, where we can make connections and notice what is happening during the conversation.
To help yourself (and the other party) get the best from the communication:
- Develop self-awareness to understand how your attitudes, behaviours and beliefs contribute to your communication style.
- Develop your leadership skills to understand and appreciate different personality types and motivational needs.
- Develop the confidence to actively listen, make mistakes and encourage people to contribute to discussions.
- Understand how cognitive biases could be at play in your decision making and discussions.
- Take notice of where someone with a different point of view and challenge your thinking on it.
When we are not busy stressing about our own “performance” during the conversation, we can watch for tone and facial expressions. We can sense when someone has put their barriers up, or is no longer listening. We can bring authenticity. And therefore, we no longer have to worry about communication that isn’t quite perfect.