This podcast explores some of the barriers to effective communication and how to avoid them. It also looks at how adopting a more mindful approach can enhance communication.
Hello, I’m Maureen O’Callaghan, founder of Beyond Money, a business that aims to change the way people do business by teaching them the art of doing business beyond money.
In this series of podcasts, I’m going to cover some key themes that will help business owners thrive in work and in life, do some good, and discover that their purpose goes way beyond money.
On today’s episode, I’d like to talk about communication.
The ability to communicate well is important in all your relationships, personal and professional. For business owners, clear and effective communication is one of the foundations of a successful business.
However, communication can be challenging. There are a number of ways it can go wrong.
How many times have you had a conversation with someone and you’ve not really been paying attention?
How many times have you felt distracted, disinterested, or dismissive because you didn’t agree with what was being said?
What about being in situations where you find it difficult to communicate?
I find it difficult to deal with people who are aggressive or threatening. I walk away, making it clear I will not talk or listen until they have calmed down.
I also find it a waste of time talking to people who are drunk or to people who have their mobile devices in their hands. That is a pet hate of mine as a trainer!
Then on top of that, there may be physical factors that block good communication. I am hearing impaired, and I can either not hear or mishear what is being said unless I pay careful attention. If there is a lot of background noise, I struggle. I also have a chronic pain condition and the pain can distract me or the painkillers I take can have a negative impact on my ability to concentrate.
So often when we communicate, there’s a lot going on that can affect the way we deliver our message and how it’s received.
However, that doesn’t mean that every conversation or written communication is doomed to fail. There are steps you can take to make it more likely that you’ll get your message across clearly and concisely.
Personally, I need to feel relaxed to communicate well. Sometimes that is difficult when I am having to communicate about something where my not being heard could have serious consequences.
I also have to remind myself to be concise; if I am not careful I can go into too much detail, thinking this will help the other person to understand.
Often, the opposite is true. People respond better to clarity and brevity. It’s not about using more words, it’s about using the right ones.
To help you choose the right words, it can help to define what you want to convey and who you are speaking to. What do they need to know and what will make it more likely that they’ll be receptive to your message?
Something I always think about is my tone of voice. How you say something can be just as important as what you say. Your tone of voice should match your intent. If you want to convey empathy, this should be evident in your tone of voice. If your tone isn’t aligned with your words it can cause confusion and your message can be misinterpreted.
It’s a bit easier to control your tone in written communications. My tip is read the email or letter or whatever it is a few times out loud so you can get a sense of whether you’ve got the tone right.
If you’re having a difficult or heated conversation over email with someone, try to take a pause before you hit send. Even if that means you reply the next day. Allowing your emotions to cool down and being mindful of the tone of your response can help reduce the chances of anything escalating.
As well as focusing on my tone of voice, I also focus on my breathing so I don’t sound nervous and I pay attention to my body language and facial expressions.
I read somewhere that non-verbal cues have between 65 and 93% more impact than the actual words that are spoken. That’s food for thought.
I find that my mindfulness practice often helps get me into a space where I am able to communicate clearly and effectively-I think a lot of our communications would have the desired outcome if we were just more mindful.
Communicating mindfully can improve relationships and make your interactions with others more authentic and meaningful. So what do I mean by communicating mindfully?
It’s about being open and honest.
Listening to understand, not to give your opinion. Active listening is an important part of mindful communication but it can be challenging.
The goal of actively listening to someone else should always be hearing their entire message, not just the words they’re saying. This means:
Giving the other person your full and undivided attention-not easy in these days of digital and other distractions.
Clearing your mind of judgements and arguments about what they are saying.
Demonstrating open and positive body language to show the other person that you are listening.
Paraphrasing what they’ve said to show that you’ve understood their message, or if you are speaking, checking that you’ve explained yourself clearly. I always try to use words and phrases that build up a picture, so people can visualise what it is that I’m saying. Telling a story can be helpful. I use active verbs because they are more engaging and I keep my sentences short. This makes it easier for people to listen to you and take in what I am saying.
Another thing that can help you communicate mindfully is developing your emotional intelligence.
Good communication starts with good emotional intelligence. After all, how can you communicate well with others if you don’t understand yourself, your emotions, and your feelings?
Being emotionally intelligent helps you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, which can be helpful particularly if you have to deliver bad news. Bad news is bad news, but showing that you’re listening to the other person and that you understand their feelings can go a long way to avoiding misunderstandings and minimising hurt.
And finally, don’t underestimate the impact of being friendly when you’re communicating. This can help put others at ease and it also makes it more likely that they’ll be receptive to what you’re saying.
Communication is always going to present challenges but developing your communication skills and mastering the art of communicating clearly and effectively has so many benefits for your relationships, business, and life.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and you’re inspired to look at where you can improve communication in your personal and professional relationships.
Tune in for the next episode of the Beyond Money podcast which will be looking at building credibility to lead well, inspire, and influence people.