Out of many, one area that professionals approach me to work with them is on their communication skills. Participants during a chat after a session sometimes ask me tips on improving communication. When I ask my clients to give a feedback to themselves most of them have communication skills as an area for improvement. Interestingly, there was this conversation I had a few years back with one of my participants at a training. This person wanted communication skills lessons. When I asked a few questions, this is what he shared. He had been working for over ten years in his organisation; other people in his team were getting opportunities that he felt he deserved. During appraisal, his boss had asked him to improve his presentations to the management and work on his ability to handle the Q&A following the presentation. His relation with most people at the office was process driven, except a few, and he wished to change that. He also mentioned that he had a habit of interrupting people and that caused him to feel regret later.
When I asked him,” Is it possible that it is not just your Interpersonal Communication Skills, but something else that needs your attention?” he looked puzzled. His focus was on practising and learning the techniques to improve his communication which was essential, but what he really wanted was to feel confident and secure while communicating.
As we know, communication happens both verbally and non-verbally. What we speak, how we listen, our physiology including voice, and also our behaviours are a part of communication. However, I would not want to spend your attention on illuminating the importance of communication or its techniques. There are some invisible parameters which play a huge role in our ability to communicate confidently and I would like to share my thoughts about them.
Unveiling the hidden:
How we think, has a great impact on our interpersonal communication skills. Usually, we are more concerned with the “What” of communication, but the “How” is equally important. The “How” is a derivative of our thinking that cannot be memorised. I was working with a gentleman for a marketing initiative a few years back. All was well, but very soon I started realising that he was not committed to the schedule. Neither was he keeping me informed. I felt he was not giving the mind space to my project the way I wanted. I was not sure how to bring it up and have a discussion around it. I had all the dialogues running in my head. I knew what I wanted to say, but was not sure how. I knew I had to be patient and polite but was still not sure how. I knew I was getting upset and had to focus on getting the work done but was not sure how. So, was never able to say it. I just was not finding the confidence to do it. In fact, along with confidence, I felt I did not have any clarity about how I wanted to communicate.
Would you say I needed to improve my communication skills? Yes, of course, but that would be the inside phase of communication. That’s where it all begins.
So if you wish to better your communication skills, feel secure, take a moment and direct your awareness within yourself. Dive in and go inward as that is where the action behind the scene is happening while we communicate.
Going Inward! How does that help?
Imagine, when you walk into a meeting, you see yourself as a shoulder that your boss loves to fire from, you look at most of the people in the management as monsters and the meeting room as a boxing ring! Your intention is not to give in to any of the ideas of those people and your awareness is mostly around how you are feeling at that point of time while listening to your own voice in your head. All of this is happening unconsciously while you enter the room!
How do you think you would be communicating then?
Unless what we see, feel and say on the inside is not encouraging or empowering we will not feel secure while communicating. Sometimes we tend to slip into a pattern of thinking which takes the life out of our external observable communication skills. So, what could you do?
What you could do:
So if you are in a situation where you are not getting desired responses, feel drained, agitated or not very resourceful in certain situations while communicating, it would be worthwhile to explore how you communicate along with examining what you are communicating.
- When you say you would like to improve your communication skills get a clear picture of what exactly is your meaning of better communication. What is it that you wish to change and improve? Get specific situations.
- Then be Aware
- How you see and think of yourselves in that situation – Do you see yourself smaller, insignificant or an equal?
- How you see and think of the other person – Does the other person seem better, superior or not so important?
- How do you see the situation – Does it look like a war zone or an examination? A kid’s play or a boring board game? Make changes in these pictures in a way that you feel you are standing on firm ground.
- What is your purpose of communication? Just saying what we have to say or hearing out a person does not complete communication.
- Are you being present in the moment? Are you observant enough to see if your message is received? How would you know? Where is your attention while listening? Are you aware that the communication is going away from the purpose? What do you do to get it back?
- Get to know your strengths/resources, name them. E.g.: Observant, Creative…
- Notice your triggers
This will guide you to be more mindful while communicating and also more effective. Since all the internal conflict/ chaos has been addressed by working on the internal aspect of communication you will feel congruent and come across as self-assured.
“You were born to be real, not to be perfect. You are here to be you, not to live someone else’s life.” – Ralph Marston
Till we meet next!