What Gap? Communication in a Complex World
Unless you're a freelance writer or a nomad, you spend a lot of time with people. If you do the math (don't worry, I did it for you), you'll spend at least 90,000 hours of your life at work — and that figure doesn’t include day-hustles, night-hustles, side-hustles, or whatever passion projects keeps us sane. That means that during our lifetimes, we’ll spend more time at work than we will with our spouses, family, and friends. Does that also mean that we've become better communicators over the years? Let me know if this line of reasoning sounds familiar: The younger generations won't listen; the older generations won't change. That reasoning is known as the “Generation Gap,” and it’s transforming the way we interact with one another.
Communication in the workplace has never been more complicated or more important. The way people think, shop, and engage the world has made that proverbial gap go from diastema-sized to cavernous. Unfortunately, the shifts in our businesses, societies, and the environment won't improve with one-sided conversations. With that in mind, let's examine five ways to improve communication in the workplace.
As an introvert, silence has always been my weapon of choice; however, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have anything to say. I listen to get a deeper understanding of the people and needs present in any situation. The ability to listen to others, especially when emotions are high, is a vital tool in neutralizing personnel issues and promoting a toxic-free work environment.
2. Ask questions
As the old saying goes, “The only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask.” It is a critical mistake to assume we already know everything. The more questions we ask, the more likely we are to be successful in our endeavors. Questions allow us to do more than gather facts: They invite others to share their views and ideas. When we use questions as a method of growth and not as accusations, we enrich our own experiences and help others to grow as well. When we use thoughtful questions to express genuine interest in others, we pull a team together and help bridge the gap.
3. Be mindful of body language
We’ve mastered the art of using our body language to convey attraction, but what does our workplace body language tell those around us? Do we cross our arms, avoid making eye contact, or slump in our chairs? In our heads, we may cross our arms because we’re cold, avoid making eye contact because of our upbringing, or slump because of exhaustion. To the outside world, our body language could imply disinterest, which is why . it’s imperative to be mindful of how we carry ourselves. Think about what thoughts and emotions we want to express in a professional interaction. Likewise, when we read someone else’s body language, we shouldn’t assume that we know what the other person is thinking until we’ve employed items one and two on this list.
4. Allow feedback
No two people experience a situation the same way. It’s essential that we know how to utilize the prism of perspective to our advantage. As business leaders, do we have a platform for feedback, especially after we’ve completed a big event or reached a goal? When we allow our teams to tell us what worked and what didn’t work, we increase efficiency and further secure our brands’ marketability with the public and other stakeholders.
5. Adapt for style
Bridging the gap between what we say and how it’s received has a lot to do with how we transmit information. There is much focus on managerial styles, but what about the learning styles of our workforces? There are eight recognized learning styles; among them are Linguistic Learners who learn through reading, writing, speaking, and Kinesthetic Learner who learn best in hands-on scenarios. The more we try to understand the learning styles of those around us, the more successful we’ll be at sharing ideas and shrinking the barriers that hinder productivity and unity in the workplace.
A great communicator makes a great leader and is a valuable asset in the workplace. They know how to translate the perspective of many into a cohesive theme, and they make the group feel valued while keeping the brand front and center. If we can all learn to listen, ask thoughtful questions, master our body language, accept feedback, and adapt our styles, we will have built a strong foundation to tackle the issues we face as a brand and a society.