Communication is at once easier and more challenging than ever thanks to the availability of high tech devices and programs that can keep us connected to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Now might be a great time to map out a personal communication strategy and review whether your time and energy is being spent creating and delivering the messages you’re actually intending that others receive. Here are some tips for self-reflection and ideas to support you as you act as your own communication coach.

Identify your preferred communication style…

First, focus on your individual style. Think about the areas of your life where you are most comfortable in the area of communication. Are you more comfortable writing an email to convey an important topic, where you have time to gather your thoughts, review drafts and be confident you have sent your best version of the message? Or are you most comfortable in person, where you can be with someone and spontaneously discuss something in a give and take style? Or are you really most comfortable finding cards or music that conveys your thoughts and feelings? These initial assessments can serve as a launching point for your personal communication plan.

The written word…

If you are best at writing, ask others for input on how valuable they find your emails. Hone your ability to crisply engage your reader in the subject matter line. Review the recipient list before you send your email to large groups at work so you know you are developing expertise with the right people. In other words, become an expert at written email content and gather data that confirms that your preferred style is effective. If emails are too impersonal, perhaps you will want to develop your talents in the art of handwritten letters and notes…increasingly noteworthy and often highly valued in an era of instant communications.

In person…

If you are a person to person verbal communicator, you can also focus on how to make this work for you. Make sure your immediate circle of family, friends and work colleagues has details to find you in person…mobile phones, online meeting programs and times when you are likely to be available for spontaneous check-ins. Set aside time during the day to exchange voice messages instead of emails. Listen to your voice messages before you send them to make sure your personality is shining through as well as the message itself. Think of the recipient and let them know how to respond to the voice message – why you are calling them and what, if anything, you are requesting they do as a result of the voice message. Be concise in voice messages…your recipient may have a short period of time to review large quantities of messages and you don’t want them to skip through your message and miss the point. Plan your calendar in a way that permits personal visits as often as possible.

Determine your natural communication talents…

After you have identified your comfortable communication style, next you might determine your natural communication talents. Solicit feedback from others about your effectiveness in that area. The goal here is to identify your natural talents in communication and develop ideas on how you can leverage those natural talents in your comfortable method of communication. Do people feel you have a talent for quickly getting to the point? Are people clear about your message? Do people see that you have a talent for listening that lets people feel free to share the issues they are working on without judgment? Do you write really great referral letters and development reviews? Are you the master of thoughtful data based reporting? Take some time to review your expertise in these areas.

Solicit further feedback to help you develop…

Finally, of course we want to improve our communication style. If you are sincere about developing a better communication style and want to know about possible blind spots, ask for direct feedback from people who you know will tell you where and how to improve. Set the stage for helpful feedback by providing the context for your request. I’ve found that most people are ready to assist others in areas of self improvement provided there is no hidden agenda. For example, if you have determined that your best communication style is in person, look at the possible vulnerabilities associated with that style. Be gentle but direct with yourself. Ask others if you have the reputation for talking too much without listening. Notice how much time you spend talking versus listening in conversations. Focus on what you have learned from someone else as a marker of a successful conversation rather than reflecting on what you told them.

Think about how you want people to feel as a result of your communications…

Finally, start being thoughtful around the feeling you want people to have as a result of being with and communicating with you. This will affect your word choices and affect the results of your communication in a positive way. For example, if you are talking with a team member and want to discuss ways to become more efficient in the way time is spent on a project, an email requesting time to develop time-saving ideas together, accompanied by an initial draft of your ideas ending with the statement “Thank you for taking the time to review these initial ideas, and I’m confident we can develop effective time saving measures together” will land differently than an email which presents your conclusions and ends with the statement “If you have any questions please contact me.” Let people know you consider communication a two-way process, no matter your inherent preferences and talents.

And finally…

As challenging as communication processes can be and regardless of where you are on your journey to become an expert at communication, there are some simple ideas you can rely on to increase your success:

First, remember that everyone has a preference for certain communication methods and styles and most will be different from your own so pay attention to clues, subtle and not-so-subtle, as to how your messages are landing.

Second, if you want to know the communication and messaging preferences of someone else, just ask them. Most of us are very pleased when someone is interested in us enough to even ask if we have preferences. Watching someone make the effort to meet us half way can make all the difference in a relationship.

As Maya Angelou says, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Author's Bio: 

Gwen Parks
U.S. Consulting Director
Link-up Consulting

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