Everyone has a specific communication style. The way you speak to people affects the way they, in turn, respond to you. Do you react strongly to things and respond emotionally? Do you take a moment to reflect and respond in a measured way? Are you expressive and engaged when listening? Do you try to relate to the person or do you rely on hunches? Determining how you approach conversations with people will show you what you need to work on to be a more empathetic communicator.
- The way we speak to people directly affects the way they, in turn, respond to us. So, how do you prefer to communicate your ideas? Are you excitable and react to things with big emotions, or are you reflective and respond to things in a more measured way? I think it's important to identify how you communicate or your personal communication style, but I think it's vital to determine if the way you think you're coming off to people is accurate.
People managers are very lucky in that they get reviewed by their direct reports. Those 360 reviews help show managers how they're actually communicating to their reports as opposed to how they think they're communicating. Although they can be absolutely brutal, they help to diagnose the communications issues that oftentimes those people managers didn't even know they had. So, after you've spent some time thinking about your communications style, do yourself a favor and ask your coworkers exactly how you actually communicate.
Take one of them out for lunch or for coffee. Preferably, a person that's not your good friend. Be sure to tell them that you're doing this because you want to improve the way you communicate with the team, so their honesty is valued. The type of feedback that's going to be most valuable is how you make that person feel during any given conversation. They'll say something along the lines of, "You know, I always feel really comfortable "bringing a problem to you," or, "It sometimes feels like you're trying to "rush me through a conversation "so you can do something else." As they're telling you their thoughts, try to categorize them.
Being a person your coworkers can bring problems to means your communication is inviting. Rushing people through conversations, though, means that you're coming off as impatient and disinterested. Once they've told you their opinion, it's time to get evidence to back that claim up. Start paying attention to the way you communicate at work and take note of the times you're displaying the behaviors your coworkers have mentioned. Every time you catch yourself committing a communication error, write down exactly what happened and the catalyst.
This part is of the utmost importance, because you should begin to see some patterns. If being impatient and disinterested is a common thread among the team, you know that's something you can improve upon. The next step here is to make the necessary improvements on your weaknesses. Slowing down and really listening to people is going to help you come off as more interested and invested in the conversation. The other side of this, though, is that you can put yourself in a position to really utilize your communication strengths.
Let's say that a bunch of your coworkers said that they really liked bringing difficult issues to you because you're just a great sounding board for potential solutions. This probably means that you sway more towards extroversion or you like to talk through problems out loud, but you're enough of an introvert to allow your coworkers to find their own solutions.
This is information that you can take to a mentor or other superior in the office and ask them how you can use this strong communications trait to the company's advantage. Determining how you currently approach conversations with people will show you exactly what you need to work on to be a more empathetic communicator, and this is something that you can begin to figure out today.
- What is empathy?
- How to be empathetic at work
- Practicing positive communication
- Identifying communication styles
- Approaching difficult conversations
- Practicing empathy in groups
- Fostering collaboration
- Encouraging coworkers