The average manager spends 30 to 40% of a typical workday giving information to others— in face-to-face interactions, in writing, via the telephone, or through e-mail and other electronic media. Despite this emphasis on conveying information, breakdowns continue to be one of the greatest sources of problems in the workplace.
Most managers have never been trained in how to explain things clearly, simply, and effectively. Yet the command of the spoken and written word plays an extremely important part in their success. Develop your ability to effectively convey ideas, in order to achieve your objectives at work. Whenever you give information to someone—or they to you—the message can be evaluated against three elements: Aim, Bias, and Climate.
AIM refers to the focus of your message. Whenever you communicate, you have a purpose, perhaps specific objectives, in mind. Aim is the extent to which you are sticking to that purpose and achieving those objectives. Keep these points in mind to make sure your Aim is clear and you achieve your communication objectives:
- Target the conversation.
- Before the interaction, determine your purpose. Think about what you want to accomplish, -your purpose or objectives- ahead of time.
- Load brain before firing mouth.
- Think before you speak. Will what you have to say help you achieve your purpose and objectives?
- Hit the target without wasting ammunition.
- Say what you have to say briefly and clearly. Also, keep the conversation on track. Avoid digressing, and when others do so, tactfully bring the conversation back on track.
- Be flexible.
- Remember that the other person has an aim for communicating, too. While you want to accomplish your objectives, be flexible during the interaction. The interchange will usually be successful to the degree that both parties are able to meet their objectives.
BIAS refers to the degree of influence—high or low, positive or negative—that you are exerting. It can be thought of as the extent to which we put our own opinion in the message. The bias we introduce can cause the other person to give us the answer they think we want to hear (e.g., “You’ll have that report to me first thing tomorrow, won’t you?” or “I know you won’t have any problems doing this task.”)
- Bias can be introduced both verbally and nonverbally.
- We can bias others with the words we choose using emotionally charged language, we can also show bias physically with our body language and associations.
- Bias can effect the person’s response or shape what they are feeling.
- Bias can be an important and desirable dimension in our interactions. Sometimes a high degree of bias is appropriate, but other times a low degree of bias is more appropriate.
- The degree of bias depends on our aim.
- Whether a high or low degree of bias is appropriate depends, of course, on your aim. Consider how the aim of a police officer versus a defense attorney might differ.
CLIMATE refers to the atmosphere you create based on how you are communicating. Are you creating an open and trusting environment, inviting two-way communication and working toward a “win-win” outcome? Or are you creating an atmosphere marked by suspicion and distrust, closing off communication from others?
- Climate is an attitude.
- Climate might be best described as an attitude. Your interactions will more likely be successful if you can create a Climate of mutual respect and trust.
- Actions speak louder than words.
- While there is power in what is said or written, we also communicate powerful messages in how we behave. If you truly are trying to set and maintain a Climate of open dialogue, you must be sincere and be seen as sincere in doing so. Remember— actions speak louder than words.