The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

DO YOU CONVERSE OR DO YOU COMMUNICATE?

Far too many people believe having the ability to CONVERSE is the same as being able to COMMUNICATE.  They believe that if one can talk effectively they will be able to influence the behavior of others.  They are firm believers in the principle that “he/she who speaks last is right” so will talk an issue to death rather than allowing someone else to have the “final say.”  Rather than recognizing that individuals have two ears and one mouth (which should be an indicator of importance – redundancy is necessary for critical components) they think since the SIZE of a mouth is larger than the size of two ear canals it MUST add more value to exercise the vocal cords than the ear drums.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION is a sum of several important parts – not simply words spoken or sounds heard.  When we communicate is should be “for a purpose.”  What are we trying to say or accomplish?  Why should someone invest valuable time to read an article or join into a conversation?  What do you wish another to TAKE AWAY from an article, discussion or directive after they have read, heard or seen it?  In order to communicate effectively we must:

  • Listen actively
  • Speak thoughtfully
  • Establish and assign ownership of a shared vision or idea while transferring accountability with responsibility
  • Intentionally follow-through to make sure expectations are met and objectives are accomplished
  • Allow mistakes to become learning experiences rather than death sentences
  • Praise openly and honestly – criticize privately and quietly
  • Provide a return for the investment that another makes in reading your article, listening to your conversation or taking your advice

To communicate well we must identify what we wish to accomplish – figure out what we want our
communication to change, alter or enhance – before we begin to talk, write or “tweet.”  Politicians often seem to say whatever they think you want to hear – in a manner convincing enough to make us forget what they may have said yesterday or what they will be saying tomorrow. They are typically highly effective communicators but may be lacking as conversationalists (where listening and speaking must closely align).  Politicians (and other effective public speakers) identify what they want their audience to “take away” from a speech – often abandoning their principles or core values in order to appease the masses.  A good conversationalist enters a debate with his or her ears (and mind) wide open so that their discussions can be focused and targeted to the listener AND actionable when the conversation is done.  Ineffective communication is often “telling.”  Effective communication often becomes overt “selling” resulting covertly in "telling."

One of the more critical aspects of communication is silence – that space where listening becomes active and saying nothing helps to formulate direction.  When one is speaking, he or she is not actively listening.  When planting your thoughts and concepts it is hard to harvest the bounty another might offer.  When we try to be heard above the noise around us, we often lose sight of the fact that a whisper can be much more effective in a quiet, listening room than can be a shout in a crowded building.  Silence often creates discomfort – but it is not YOUR responsibility to fill every void with the sound of your own voice.  Allow silence to be deafening at times – echoing within the space left vacant of conversation as if it were an angry sea pounding upon the
shore of an exposed shore.  Allow your thoughts and ideas to permeate the moments of silence that listening (rather than talking) might create – then EXPRESS the thoughts into encouraging words in order to motivate
change.

Effective Communication is more than talking – it is artfully transforming words into actions through carefully directed compromise that produces “win-win” situations rather than creating and fostering a “win-lose” mentality.  When you wish to share experiences, thoughts, feelings or dreams – converse.  When something absolutely, positively needs to be accomplished (on time) – when an action must result in an equal and opposite reaction that changes a condition or behavior – communicate.