Discover the timeless truth at the heart of effective communication and learn about other key elements.

In the previous post, we talked about inclusive networks and structures.  While forming networks and connections are important for facilitating exchange of knowledge and resources, they must be based on strong relationships that stem from effective communication and interactions.  Indeed, when negative feelings emerge from relationships, network ties weaken.

What do we mean by effective communication?  Effective communication consists of active, respectful dialogue in the interest of the good of all.

Take a moment to think about which timeless truth might be at the heart of effective communication.  Do you have one in mind?

The answer is—treating others with respect.  Why is this so?  Because people draw conclusions regarding whether another person respects them based on how that person treats them.  Whether we’re aware of it or not, when we interact with others, we communicate respect or lack thereof.

Let’s explore the key elements of effective communication.  It all begins with awareness—of one’s experiences (e.g., thoughts, feelings, concerns, physical states) as well as others’—and perceiving things as they really are.  The fundamental principle of honesty is relevant here.  And, of course, authenticity.

Assuming awareness and authenticity exist, open and honest communication that respectfully seeks to understand all perspectives comes next.  Free expression of diverse opinions remains one of the keys to successful teamwork and needs to be clearly established.  Trust is built through constructive dialogue and an open and rich flow of communication.  When people feel heard and validated, they feel respected.

When team members feel safe enough to freely express diverse opinions, and when they seek to truly understand one another’s perspectives, every voice gets a fair hearing and situations are perceived more fully by all.  And if people are not viewing a situation clearly or completely, constructive dialogue provides an opportunity for misperceptions to be cleared up and blind spots to be uncovered.

Open and honest communication also includes being willing to be influenced and changed.  When people truly connect with one another and allow themselves to be open to being influenced, they send a message that they value the other person enough to allow him or her to have an impact on them.

When people genuinely strive to incorporate one another’s views—and when they feel that their own  perspectives are validated—they’re much more willing to generate, embrace and execute goals  and solutions that support the big picture and have the best interest of the team or organization in mind.  This, as you know, is huge—because often people fail to mobilize or sustain the energy necessary to realize collective goals.

One way to view failure to mobilize or sustain energy to realize collective goals is resistance.   Another way is to view it is as a normal manifestation of different perspectives.  Remember the candlestick and two faces exercise in post 3 of this series? This helped us see that people view things differently and that different perspectives are valid.

By encouraging expression of varying views, issues can be surfaced and validated and a fuller picture can be painted that leads to more effective solutions supported by the team or organization.  Unless understanding all views is encouraged, issues may remain hidden and work in opposition to the broader goals.

When all views are surfaced and incorporated, plans can be generated that people truly support.  That’s what makes a team or organization top-performing.

The last main element of effective communication consists of making sure that all issues are brought to closure.  A situation that’s unresolved consumes mental and emotional energy.   In contrast, when issues are constructively and respectfully addressed and brought to closure, people can direct their energy to the next significant undertaking.  This is manifested as nimbleness—and found in top-performing teams and organizations.

In all of the above ways, effective communication sends the message that the individual on the receiving end is respected and valued.

What are some additional things that lead people to feel respected and valued during social exchanges?   Eye contact, lack of interrupting, and calmly responding (vs. emotionally reacting) are but a few.   Can you think of any others?

Action items:

  • Reflect upon whether your team members’ words and actions convey respect
  • Identify the elements of effective communication that are well developed in your teams
  • Identify any less developed elements of effective communication that your teams may want to further develop\
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