Communicating well, like any other skill, is something that we can learn to do. And something that we can get better at with practice. I’ve often come across a misguided belief that we are either born good communicators or bad communicators. A belief that some people are ‘naturals’ and some are not. Some people just know what to say and how to say it so that people listen – and others don’t (and never will)
This belief that some people are naturally good communicators might be well ingrained in our minds, it might even be convenient (no point in trying to change anything if that’s just the way things are) – but it’s not accurate.
We can all learn to be better communicators.
However, it will require a greater level of self-awareness for some than others because of something called Enjoyment Performance Theory.
Enjoyment Performance Theory goes like this:
If we enjoy something, we tend to do it,
The more often we do it, the better we get at it,
The better we get, the more positive feedback we get.
The more positive feedback we get, the more we keep doing the same thing.
And we get even better at it.
It works the other way around as well. So, the less we enjoy doing something, the less likely we are to do it and the less likely we are to develop that skill.
Some people enjoy communicating and finding ways to put across their ideas to influence or help others understand something. They don’t get it perfect every time but they have likely spent years trying and perfecting their techniques. They make it look like it comes naturally and doesn’t require effort.
Others don’t enjoy this and have likely spent years avoiding it. Hence they don’t get better at it and it doesn’t come naturally.
We all have things we prefer over others, so there is no right or wrong as to whether we ‘should’ enjoy something. But, knowing that we may not have developed a skill, which is entirely possible to develop, can help us take steps towards developing that skill.
If you’ve never focused on, or practiced, communicating well, then it will be new and may feel difficult at first. But, whether it’s the skill of confidently expressing our ideas, of influencing others to see things from our perspectives or navigating challenging conversations, they can all be practiced and learned.
How can we identify what we need to develop?
Here are a few things you can do without much effort.
Notice patterns in the response you get from your communication.
Is there a pattern in the way people respond to you (frequently confused, disagree, offended, interested, agreeable?). If the response you are getting is not what you want, it’s worth experimenting with different behaviours.
Observe others who make effective communication look natural
Some people have practiced more than others and make it look natural. Observe what these ‘naturals’ do. Are they listening more, asking more questions, being firmer or softer than you are?
Select one thing to experiment with
The people who appear to be ‘naturally good communicators’ may be doing a number of things that look difficult to you. Select just one small thing and consider how you can bring that into your communication. It may something as simple as making sure you make eye contact with people you speak to, or ensuring the other person finishes speaking before you add a comment. There are numerous small behaviours we can adjust that make a big difference.
Taking it to the next level
To build further awareness and expand what we notice about own way of communicating, it can be helpful to get objective feedback. Afterall, we can’t change something we don’t notice in the first place. Get feedback from a trusted friend, mentor or coach.
For a truly objective view, I also use the Harrison Assessment Questionnaire, based on Enjoyment Performance Theory. This help my clients identify communication behaviours they enjoy or don’t enjoy, and as a result have developed or not developed.
Harrison Assessments clearly identifies which behaviours you enjoy in relation to those you don’t enjoy. It takes just 20 minutes to complete on-line and can fast track development by giving you a clear picture of areas that are impacting your ability to communicate effectively (along with other tendencies that impact numerous areas of your work)
Contact me if you would like to know more about the Harrison Assessment Questionnaire and developing your communication skills.