A couple years ago I was playing on a recreational softball team with some friends. During one game, in the heat of the moment two friends had a disagreement and almost came to blows over it. Several of us stepped in and prevented an actual fight from happening.
A few days later I was talking to one of the guys involved and asked if he had talked to the other friend since they nearly exchanged punches. He indicated that things were fine and that there were no hard feelings. I asked him how he conversation went and he said, “I walked past him and nodded my head (he demonstrated his head nod) and things are cool now.”
I asked if that was all that happened or if he actually said anything to the other friend. He said no and, looking at me strangely asked, “Why?” I asked if the other friend understood what the head nod meant and he again looked at me with an exasperated look on his face and said, “Of course he does.”
When I saw the other friend next I asked him about the exchange. He vaguely remembered but in his mind they hadn’t talked about the softball game and that no apologies were exchanged. He also said that he didn’t think they needed to say anything and that he had no intention of bringing it up.
The next game the two were fine and acted as if nothing had happened.
This is typical guy behavior so I wasn’t surprised, but I do find myself constantly surprised at the lack of communication that exists in business. Granted technology, specifically social media has changed the dynamics of communicating and the ways in which we communicate.
There are a number of communication techniques that work well. In my experience though there are four that are the foundation for all the others. These four are:
- If you want somebody to know something, then tell them. Don’t think that a head nod or look will communicate what you want. Don’t rely on somebody to catch a hint or understand what you’re implying. Tell them. Be specific about what you want or what you’re communicating. If you have an event taking place or want somebody to come to your house for a party, tell them the specifics, including date, location and time.
- Don’t use jargon or code words. I like to read about the mafia and the FBI agents who helped gather evidence to prosecute mafia members. The mafia is famous for using code words to communicate. The idea is that outsiders won’t know what they’re talking about. In business, you want to be clear and concise so that the people your talking to can easily understand you.
- Speak Up. Growing up my grandma was hard of hearing. As a result when family and friend would talk to her we’d all raise our voices and basically yell. It helped as long as she was looking your way. It was quite disarming to outsiders as we’d all turn to talk to her and be shouting. People would ask why she didn’t just use a hearing aid. She was hard of hearing her entire life and as a young women didn’t have access to or the money for a hearing aid. When she got older she tried a hearing aid but the amount of noise and sounds she could hear terrified her so she stopped wearing them. As she got older she lost all her hearing but we still kept yelling.
- Make eye contact and allow others to do the same. Going back to the example above with my Grandma. As she got older she lost all her hearing, but we all kept yelling. After so many years it became habit for our family. My grandpa was the only one that didn’t raise his voice to talk to her. In fact, when he spoke to her nobody could hear him. He knew she had lost all of her hearing and would wait to speak until he knew he had made eye contact with her and then he would annunciate his words slowly but without sound. Grandma learned at an early age to read lips and if you made eye contact she would read your lips. When I introduced my wife to her the first time I told her, “She can’t hear any longer but we all still yell when we speak to her. It’s habit. Just make eye contact and speak and she’ll read your lips.”
The ability to communicate effectively is an important part of any relationship. An inability to express yourself and communicate will limit your ability to be successful and achieve your goals.