Effective Communication Begins With This Radical First Step
Start being heard and stop missing out on opportunities.
We live in a world where information comes at us from every direction. Bombarded with both verbal and nonverbal interpersonal communication, we fill workdays with emails, phone calls, team meetings and the like. We exist in a "Go go go!" world, tackling one task after another, including participating in the shared conversations of our businesses — ideally learning, teaching and growing with every one.
It's easy, as a result, to fall into a robotic state; spitting out answers and words, sometimes without really absorbing an interaction, simply because we have become accustomed to such exchanges. We are used to receiving information from others, as well as speaking and sharing our own, but how often do we take the time to listen to what we have to say?
I've found that, in order to successfully communicate with others, we must be able to communicate with ourselves. Here are three exercises that can help you do that, and in turn become a better asset to your team.
Related: 12 Tough Questions to Ask Yourself
Take time to prepare
I have made a habit of taking 10 minutes before my workday begins to assess my mental state. Am I alert? Am I dreading opening my inbox? Am I ready to jump into the gauntlet?
Understanding your state of mind is crucial to building a daily game plan, because it allows you to understand your current abilities. On the days in which I recognize feeling run down, I know to focus early on projects that guarantee a quick win. Whether emailing a team to let them know we have made progress on something or jumping into a task that I know will allow me to use my strengths, I can use this boost to get myself in a better frame of mind. On those mornings when I recognize feeling energized, I'm able to take advantage and tackle challenging tasks first. Your business will benefit from this self-understanding, because you will be able to prioritize and direct workflow for daily success.
Write it out
Sometimes, when a situation arises, our first instinct is to jump in headfirst. However, if you take the time to talk yourself through a situation before attacking it, you're able to form well-rounded ideas — allow yourself to see solutions you may have missed otherwise. So, when you are met with a problem, take a moment to write out any thoughts you have in response, and make an effort to include those dealing with possible solutions, goals that need to be met and opinions on what may have caused the problem. This stream of consciousness writing will allow you to create a visual map of information, and will help you to come to the solution table with greatly increased understanding.
Assess your strengths
People are not stagnant. We grow and change every day, and our strengths grow with us. A popular tool in schools and businesses to mark these is the CliftonStrengths program. Using a Gallup-developed assessment for measuring 34 "talent themes," it's a compressive way of determining an individual's top personal skills.
When I first took the assessment years ago, I learned that my number-one strength was "Context," meaning that I look back in order to understand the present. I began applying this to my work life and was diligent in looking to previous similar problems and the success of their solutions. I later retook the assessment, expecting the same results, but much to my surprise, "Context" was no longer at the top. In its place was a trait labeled "Futuristic," which is almost the exact opposite of "Context." This meant that I had become someone whose greatest strength was envisioning the next step and ensuring day-to-day tasks were in line with future goals. Had I been paying attention to my growth, I may have been able to use this to perform at a higher level than I was.
So, take time at the end of the day to assess your strongest traits and what you did well. This assessment will produce a clearer idea of yourself and how you can better contribute to your business.
Intrapersonal communication comes in many forms. It can be talking to yourself on the way home just to vent about the day or jotting down notes about things you learned from a project to help you do better the next go-round. The point is that there is no right or wrong way to communicate with and understand yourself as a person — but if you forget to listen to what you have to say, you will be missing out on your strongest asset: yourself.
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