Communicate with Care: Why Patience and Understanding are Key

“What doe he want from me?” Asked my colleague as she showed me an email from a team member. My colleague had asked me to work with her on her responses to others. She knew that she was coming across as harsh and she wanted to work on her tone, specifically in her written communications.

 It made me think: Communication needs work. We often think that communication is simply talking and listening, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a skill, and like any other, it requires practice and effort to get better at it. At its core, communication is the exchange of ideas, feelings, and information. We communicate in many different ways, both verbal and nonverbal. Whether it’s writing an email, speaking over the phone, presenting in front of a group, or engaging in a conversation, these all require communication skills. Effective communication takes work. It takes practice to get better at communication. Here are some tips that can help you become more effective in your day-to-day communication:

1. Ask questions. Being curious about the conversation or situation can help you open up and better understand what’s being said.

2. Listen with intent. This means actively listening to the other person and focusing your attention on what they are saying.

3. Use positive language. This will help you come across in a more positive light.

4. Be clear and concise. Make sure you communicate your message in a way that can be easily understood.

.After giving the email a quick read I had to concede, “It is not a very clear communication. I think he is telling you this for one of three reasons. Let’s discuss those reasons and your possible responses.” I knew that the two of them had been working together on a project and that they had divided up responsibilities for key deliverables. I knew that the team member who sent the email was discussing one of those deliverables. I did not know if the deliverable he was discussing was his responsibility or my colleagues’ responsibility.

 My colleague wanted to reply back with an email that said something along the lines of, “I don’t know why you are sending me this or what you think I am supposed to do about it.”I cautioned her that perhaps that might come across as harsh, something she was trying to avoid.

 “I do not see why I should waste my time trying to communicate with someone who cannot even tell me what they want from me”, stated my colleague.  I took a deep breath and asked her why she wanted me to help her with her communications and why it mattered that her communications were perceived as harsh. With that, we started over again and reviewed the email, and devised some potential responses.  Each response included the words please and thank you. As we worked together I was struck by how powerful these two words were and yet so often they were underutilized. All my colleague really needed to do was politely ask her team member for some clarification. She did not have to do this in an email, she could have called him or dropped by his office.

 Communication takes work. We can quickly string words together and send them off, but that does not mean the communication was effective. We need to consider the tone, the direction of the communication, and the words we choose. We need to be patient and take the time to understand what the other person is trying to communicate to us. We need to be polite, even if we disagree with the message being communicated. We also need to take the time to listen. Communication is not just about delivering our thoughts, but about understanding the thoughts of others