December 8, 2017 • 7 minute read • by Saeed
“Be water my friend.” ~ Bruce Lee
The ability to communicate effectively is perhaps the most essential life skill and arguably the most important attribute you can possess at work.
Communication has many modalities. You can communicate using words, symbols, pictures, graphics, voice, tone, facial expressions, clothing and body language.
Most communication is a combination of these elements. By understanding how to use these elements effectively you can improve the way you communicate and achieve the best outcome for any situation.
Good communicators find it easy to develop empathy and trust with others. Good communicators can adapt their style of communication to suit the audience and situation they are presented with.
Prior to initiation as a communication warrior, you may have a closed mind, feel self-conscious, judge, be prone to subjective biases, lack awareness of self and cultural issues and be characterized by incessant talking or interrupting. You are not yet a strong communicator.
But you are about to be.
The most important belts in your communication journey are arguably the white and the black. The white represents the courage to begin something new, and the willingness and humility of you as a learner. The black represents your single-minded determination and willingness to persist in the face of challenge to attain mastery.
Welcome to the communication dojo.
White Belt: You are focused on growing your proficiency and mastery on how to be a better communicator.
- You know how and where to access resources to support better communication practice.
- You are developing active listening skills such as listening to nonverbal as well as verbal language. You understand the impact of both verbal and non-verbal messages.
- You are learning to paraphrase, use feedback, and ask clarifying questions to check for understanding and help to identify possible misinterpretations.
- You ask the other person for as much detail as they can provide.
- You are learning about unintended messages in your communication – those messages that may be leaked unintentionally but which are truthful reflections of underlying thoughts or feelings.
- You are beginning to ‘self-monitor’ in order to stay aware of what others are saying and doing. You are becoming aware of how what you are saying and doing is impacting others.
- You delay evaluation of what you have heard until you fully understand it.
- You are learning to not be defensive because you know that any tension or impatience may be transmitted in your communication.
Green Belt: All of the above AND…you adapt your own communication style in a range of situations.
- You develop and use different methods, styles and skills to communicate and engage people.
- You can support others to understand and overcome barriers to effective communication.
- You modify the content and structure of your communication to meet the needs of your audience.
- You understand the theory and practice of good communication.
- You use feedback provided to you by others to improve your communication.
- You regulate your own communication and behavior according to the way others are responding.
- You are becoming aware of communication ‘noise’ – psychological, environmental, demographic factors that influence or interfere with effective communication.
- You are aware of judgments you may be forming as others are communicating with you.
- You are able to maintain attention and focus on the other.
- You are reflecting the meanings of what you have heard by summarizing the content of the other person’s message. You listen for message content and you listen for feelings.
Brown Belt: All of the above AND…you evaluate factors in the system and culture which may present barriers to communication and participation and you make recommendations for improvement.
- You can communicate in ways that respect the rights, views and concerns of others.
- You take into account the purpose of your communication.
- You model effective communication techniques and can coach others to do the same.
- You review the communication preferences of individuals with whom you work and promote accommodations to enhance a more productive communication environment.
- You promote the use of specific communication aids and offer extra support according to individual preferences and needs.
- You support others to understand the potential impact of communication styles and methods on short, medium, and long-term goals.
- You seek information and advice where changes required are outside the scope of your skills, expertise and responsibilities.
- You are beginning to influence others with your effective communication style.
Black Belt: All of the above AND…you lead the implementation of effective communication systems in the workplace.
- Your communication is characterized by a high degree of emotional intelligence.
- You handle emotions both of self and others and you know how to read interpersonal situations and organizational politics.
- You are focused and your words land precisely on target.
- You are fully self aware of your own background, experiences and beliefs that may have an impact on your communication style and practices.
- You are aware of other individuals’ cultural and language context.
- You use communication to promote trust and rapport in relationships.
- You understand how your power, position and influence may impact others and communicate effectively around them in such a way that increases the power, position and influence of others.
- You adapt your own communication style in a range of situations.
- You use communication to promote a culture of participation that also empowers others to communicate their preferences and needs.
- You lead the development of an environment in which others are able to discuss their challenges and concerns openly.
- You build the capacity of others to understand and develop their own communication style.
- You use communication to influence and inspire others.
One Final Word…
At the most basic level, communication can be defined as the sharing of information between two or more individuals or groups to reach a common understanding. But the information and ideas must be understood for communication to be effective. That’s where the learning journey comes in. Good communication is often incorrectly defined by the communicator as agreement instead of clarity of understanding.
The encoding of messages into words, written or spoken, is verbal communication. Nonverbal communication includes all messages encoded without using written or spoken language. Face-to-face communication provides the most immediate feedback and is the richest information medium because of the many information channels available through voice, eye contact, and body language.
Beyond these tangibles, intangibles such as perception play a central role in communication affecting both transmission and feedback. Perception is the process through which people select, organize, and interpret sensory input to give meaning and order to the world around them. Perception is inherently subjective and influenced by people’s personalities, values, attitudes, moods, experience, and knowledge. When senders and receivers communicate with each other, they are doing so based on their own subjective perceptions.
The mastery of these ideas and principles is perhaps the most worthwhile thing you can do for your life (personal relationships) and for your career (professional relationships). Your investment will pay you back in success dividends. Trust me.
Good luck grasshopper.
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