So what is good communication? True communication happens only when the desired message is received and understood as intended. Whether you are presenting to a large group, conversing one-on-one, or writing a letter, good communication requires transmission, receptiveness, interpretation and feedback. Although different terms might be applied to the communication process, its success is ultimately defined by the accurate exchange of information and a shared understanding.
The Communication Process
Telling alone is not communicating, nor is hearing. Each stage of the process has an associated skill set that can be learned and practiced for increasing effectiveness. It’s also important to remember that communication is not an event; it is a loop of refinement and clarification that continues until the meaning of the message is clearly understood. This communication loop is clearly evident in the model below. In this example, both the sender and the receiver are creating messages (codifying), hearing or reading messages (decoding), and interpreting messages by applying their own personal filters in a continuous cycle until the message intended agrees with the message understood. Communication breaks down when the sender assumes the message is understood as intended and the receiver assumes the message has been interpreted and understood correctly – but neither of them confirms their assumption—in other words, they don’t cycle it back around to make sure they have a shared understanding.
Workplace Communication Challenges
Communication in the workplace has its own set of challenges. Common obstacles to good communication in the workplace range from workload to attitude to organizational structure. Here is one list of common obstacles to communication (and some excuses for doing it poorly!), gathered at an HR Roundtable and shared via Steve Browne’s Business of HR blog on communication.
- We’re too busy: The “too busy” response came fast and often.
- Poor timing: Timing is a critical factor to effective communication. Communicating at the wrong time or blurting things out just to be heard doesn’t help.
- I only talk to people who “matter”: Yes, some people actually considered this to be an appropriate communication strategy at work.
- People are intimidated: Senior Managers often say that they don’t intimidate people. Unfortunately, intimidation is in the eye of the beholder and it can definitely impair communication.
- Technology: This one came up in reference to people using technology poorly or as a replacement for other, more effective forms communication—not that technology itself is always an obstacle.
- Silos –Silos are a true barrier to communication, even if it’s going great within the silo, communication between silos is often non-existent.
- Insincerity: When people are not genuine, communication has no chance to be effective.
- Cultural differences: Unfortunately, lack of understanding of different cultures (or individual differences in general), can be a real obstacle to effective communication.
- Too much noise: It’s hard to cut through the constant flow of information and identify (never mind pay attention to), messages that really need to be heard and acted upon.
Enhancing Communication Skills
Addressing each of these challenges will likely require a unique approach, but what’s clear is the fact that the abilities of an effective communicator are some of the most sought after skills in the workplace, and well worth developing. Almost every aspect of work involves communication, from team dynamics to performance management; that’s why we write regularly about the challenges and opportunities this hard to measure skill represents in the workplace. For more information about the impact of communication in the workplace and how to develop specific communication skills, check out our Effective Communications Series of blog posts.
- Communicating Under Stress in the Workplace
- Communication Styles: Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic
- The 5 Fundamentals of Fearless Presentations
- 20 Tips for Enhancing Workplace Communications
- The Value of Active Listening
- Interpersonal Communication: It’s Not Just What You Say
- 10 Tips for Effective Written Communication
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