Why wouldn’t you want excellent communication skills?
Communicating is a skill and like any other skill it needs practice and refinement to improve. When is the last time that you really thought about how your communication is being received? I mean not on the surface but really deep down, how is what you are communicating being received by the other person?
From time to time you may just get the sense that people are not quite on your side, that building rapport with people is a bit hit and miss, that you have to really work hard to get your message across or for someone to agree to your suggestion. If this is happening to you then the chances are that you are not communicating as effectively as you could do.
Creating results in your life is so much easier if the people that you are communicating with are on your side. In terms of creating positive results in yourself and in others I cannot think of a reason why you wouldn’t want excellent communication skills, can you? No? So, here’s something for you to think about.
Think about a time in the past when you were explaining something that you are involved in to someone, a project for example. You are halfway through explaining yourself and they interrupt and say “Why did you do it that way?” or “Why do you want to do it that way?”
How does that question make you feel? Not so good? Do you feel a bit defensive? What is it about the question that makes you feel like all of a sudden you have to defend yourself, justify yourself?
It is the use of the word “why.” It’s like they are not just questioning why you did it that way, but in fact they are implying that they either cannot understand why you did not do it another way, or that they have thought of another way that is better. You think about the question as a kind of criticism. It’s like they have said “Why on earth have you done it that way???” They have not said that but they might as well have.
Their intention may have been completely innocent. They may even have wanted to learn how you came about doing it that way so that they could do it themselves, or they might just have wanted some more information about what you did so that they could understand you properly. However, without thinking they used the word why and that made you defensive and you are probably going to be a bit short with them in giving your reply.
Can you see now how easily communication gets strained and breaks down?
Try this on instead. If they had got really specific and said “I’m interested in your process there. How did you decide to do it that way?” How would you feel about that question? Maybe a bit better? It really sounds as if they want to discover more information, they want to know your process. You feel that their motive is not to criticise but to help them understand, and so you are happy to give them an explanation. No strain, no break down in communication.
Using the why questions can certainly cut to the chase, and can challenge where challenge is appropriate, however I would like to propose that in future when you hear a “why” about to come out of your mouth, stop, think, and get specific with your question. Use “what” or “how” instead to soften the impact and take delight in how that improves your communication, gains you more influence and gets you better results.
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