Communicating is something we are all hard-wired to do
from birth. Even as a newborn we communicate our needs, desires and discomforts.
For example, a baby may cry out when they are cold or hungry, and coo when they
are content. As we grow our ability to communicate becomes a lot more complex,
and we can refine it in to a valuable skill. Improving how we communicate is
important, because it becomes crucial in succeeding professionally.
Communication is an exchange between two or more people, and to be done correctly,
it requires those involved to actively participate. Giving your attention,
listening, analyzing what is said, and providing a response are the basic
elements in any conversation. However, this process can vary based on your environment.
While it may be acceptable to do the dishes while chatting with your
significant other at home, in a professional setting you should be focused on
the person you are speaking with. It’s also important to note that
communication can occur verbally or nonverbally through emails, messages, and
letters, and these each require their own criteria to be effective. Appropriate
use of communication establishes a foundation of respect, and insures information
is delivered and understood as intended.
Communication barriers affect this process. For example,
if you are on the phone while typing an email, how easy do you think it would be
to not hear something important the person on the phone said? Would you find it
rude if someone had to keep asking you to repeat things? Doing two or more
tasks at once doesn’t let you focus on them like you could if you did them individually.
In fact, distraction is one of the most common communication barriers, and multi-tasking
isn’t the only way to be distracted. Internal and external feelings can
distract you as well, such as being angry with a friend, or feeling hot because
the air conditioning is out. I personally experienced the role distraction
plays in communication breakdown during my last monthly training weekend. During
this training I was part of a very small group assigned to do clinicals at a separate
clinic from the rest of the unit. When my group finished working for the day,
the person in charge of us gave us the meeting time for the next morning and
told us she would contact us if she heard anything different. However, she had
been distracted that day with another project she was working on, and instead
of clarifying with the people above her, she simply gave us the time on the
printed training schedule given out prior to the weekend. I would normally ask
the person who is over me outside of the clinical groups to verify any
information I was given, but one of my dear friends had just passed away a few
weeks prior, and I wasn’t performing as usual. Due to both of us being
distracted in our own ways, neither of us discovered that the meetup time for
the following morning had been changed. Unfortunately, this means we were both
late, which is a serious offence in the military.
This sort of breakdown occurs more often than we would
like it to. And while everyone should be diligent in improving their
communication, it becomes paramount when you oversee others. As a leader you should
make sure information you communicate is correct and delivered properly. An example
of this would be in my experience as a squad leader at my previous unit. Before
sending out important information that was given to me, I always made sure to
clarify that what I perceived being said was correct. After I disseminated the
information myself I required that everyone in my squad respond to confirm they
received and understood the message as well. Because of this, I never had any
issues with my soldiers being late, and they knew they could rely on me in
general. This shows that to build trust and respect you must utilize the
communication process properly. I hope that by working to improve and maintain
my communication skills I can become a better leader and continue to build
solid foundations with those around me.