Effective Communication: Old News or Back to Basics? Part 1

by Pamela on January 12, 2010

“Communication” Isn’t Just a Buzzword

We use the words ‘communication’ and ‘communicate’ a lot. It seems the more we use a word, the less effective it becomes because we tune it out: “There was a communication breakdown,” “Communication is a key factor in success,” “We need to communicate better,” “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” We see these words everywhere and in all contexts.

Now that we can reach each other at any given moment, we are communicating better, right? Surely, if I can’t reach you on the land line, I can try your cell phone. If I can’t reach you on the cell, I can send you an email or text. If I still can’t reach you, I can check your Facebook status. Oh, you’re at your son’s hockey game? That explains it.

We are constantly tweeting, texting, emailing, and chatting, so it’s natural to think that because we have more vehicles of communication, we’ve improved communication. It’s quite the contrary, in my opinion. I would argue that we are talking more and saying less than ever before.

I’m not disparaging social media. I use social media. It has its place, but it’s no substitute for verbal communication. I’m a talker and I rely on my ability to connect with people in order to make a living, so social skills are particularly important to me. When I worked for StomperNet, my main job was to make sure that my clients accomplished their business goals every week. The company wanted their coaches to make sure that members were not just learning, but also applying what they learned. I quickly discovered that a lot of my clients’ progress was hindered by the everyday interpersonal dynamics of their businesses. In most cases, these issues could be resolved with clear communication. I’ll have more on the specifics of clear communication in the workplace in part 2 of this series.

One of the principals of coaching is that we aren’t supposed to judge or preach. I happily followed those guidelines in pursuit of my ICF certification. Well, I have my own business now and this is MY blog *heehee* so here goes: If you spend your whole day tweeting on Twitter, updating your status on Facebook, checking out new apps on your iPhone, or texting on your Blackberry, you WILL NOT accomplish your business objectives, your brain will atrophy from trying to limit your thoughts to 140 characters and abbreviating every word, and you will lose the ability to connect with humans effectively. Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, but you get the idea: use social media, limit the amount of time you spend on it, and stick to that limit.

Social media provide the method, mode, or means of communication. It is not a substitute for being able to speak properly, write well, and deal with conflict. The means by which we communicate will always change and evolve, and unless we all morph into Stepford Wives, conflict is here to stay. If you can’t confront it when it comes up, you’re sunk.

It may sound cliché but effective communication is at the root of most of the challenges we face in business. I’ve worked with some brilliant small business owners. Regardless of what brings them to me in the first place, they almost inevitably come to the realization that they need to improve their communication skills, and I applaud them for that. It’s not easy, but it’s essential. We do ourselves, our businesses, our children, and our marriages, a disservice by failing to connect and communicate on a HUMAN level.

Now, I’m off to tweet. Gotta get people to read an article about why we need to tweet less and talk more- DANG, can’t escape it!

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