Monday, October 12, 2009

"We Have to Improve Communication" - Part I

Have you ever heard that phrase, upon a team review, a company review, a post-mortem meeting, etc...? I bet you have; When looking at the root cause of a problem or series of problems, (ok areas of opportunity or deltas if you prefer) this phrase features inevitably.

And then a question automatically pops out of my mind. Ok, so "We Have to Improve Communication". But HOW?

I don't have an idea of how. Why? Because I learned to communicate by intuition, by day-to-day social interaction. So for me this is so obvious I did never mind looking deeper at what communication means, nor that it has a structure, and that rules have to be established and shared in order to make it work. I didn't realize that words or letters by themselves mean nothing, that COMMUNICATION = ACTION; the way I communicate is the way things will be executed.

It has a direct effect on the results. Yes, I'm talking about verbal communication.

Even when they say verbal communication weights as little as 7% on delivering a message, the "what we say", knowing how to structure it, becomes the most important part of the "how we say it", the other 93% that goes along with the body language, voice tone, rhythm, tonality, etc...

Bear in mind nowadays in business, technology had made us more practical, more impersonal, and most of our communication occurs first through e-mail or documentation, then by phone, and at last by personal contact.

I didn't realize either that knowing HOW TO COMMUNICATE is the most powerful weapon I have to make things happen, and it provides added value to any team I work along with.

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any task, any project, any human interaction. It is the main driver to success, and to make my way along to get what I want.

I have to thank Softtek for helping me realize it, particularly Emilio Rojas, may he rest in peace, for his valuable two days course "Communication for Action". This is a course in which I learned so much, and it was just so simple.

And also have to thank Infosys for providing me the Business Writing Skills course.

I feel that knowing how to communicate is a MUST for any leader, manager, director to be efficient, yet I don't see many of them applying this knowledge. Why? Because learning how to communicate seems to be a waste of time, and even an offense: I already know how to ask for things, how to praise, how to reprehend, how to inaugurate, how to close, how to feedback, how to express my thoughts...

Give it a second thought. Let me give you a sample of how I realized I didn't know how to communicate effectively. The first thing I learned on Emilio's course was the most important, ask yourself:

Do I take ownership of my thoughts? Do I take responsibility of what I say?

At the course there was this little, inflatable plastic smiley called "One". You may also call it "We" sometimes. Emilio established the rules of the course and said: "I introduce you to One, an inert being made out of plastic and air".

Ok, yeah, so?

Let me ask you my reader your opinion about anything, let's say: Have you ever been so stressed out you treat people so badly that you later regret? Why did you do it?

Think of an answer before continuing, as if I was in front of you.



Ok now think: How many times did you use the "One" or "We" pronouns? Like in: "Well, you know sometimes One is just so filled up with such pressure One lets it go inadvertently." or "Well, I mean we may be under so much stress sometimes and don't think about what we do, but people understand we are just under stress".

Well, if you said "One", let me introduce you to him: it is an inert being made out of plastic and air. And I don't think One has an opinion, do you?

If you said "We", let me ask you, what do you mean by "We"? Because if you ask me, I may disagree. And maybe someone in Asia won't either. Or any other reader of this post.

It was so annoying to be constantly interrupted by Emilio during the course whenever I said "One", or "We" or "Them". But it made me realize how badly I was used to not taking ownership nor responsibility on my thoughts.

Using "One" as a pronoun may seem not a big deal, but try it. It was so hard for me. If this was not a big deal, why was it so hard for me to avoid being indirect when expressing my thoughts an opinions?

This is deep, this is profound. I see it coming from a rooted thought or assumption that the world as I see it, is the world everyone else sees. That what I think must be what everyone else thinks.

This is automatically blocking my disposition to LISTEN, and puts me as a Proposer, never a Listener.

How can I achieve understanding, or get to an agreement, if I can't even take ownership of my thoughts, hence I am predisposed to reject a different opinion? I'm closed to diversity!

I will be posting about communication, about what I've learned. Next post will be about how to ask for things.

On the meantime, try avoiding "One", see how it works for you.