Communicating With Skill

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Teams and individuals who communicate well operate with a greater clarity of purpose, knowing exactly what they’re going to do, and why, how and when they’re going to do it.

Yet great communication is not that common. Many problems with performance have less to do with talent and resources, and more to do with poor transmission.

Like any skill, clear and effective communication doesn’t just happen – it needs to be fully understood, regularly practiced, and continually reviewed.

As an athlete, coach, parent, or organisation, underestimate the power of communication at your peril. Regardless of whether it’s done well or not, it will create a far reaching influence on teams and individuals. This influence will either be positive or negative, depending on the quality of your communication.

Message intent

Communication starts with the message you intend to deliver, and this message is affected by a wide range of factors including  your values, education, beliefs, expectations, social networks, and so on. All these factors will influence this message, and the way you convey it.

Communicating with Skill | Nathan Wood Consulting

These factors can sometimes prevent you from transmitting your intended message, so bear in mind the following to help you communicate more clearly with others:-

  • Accept that everyone else also has these unique factors, and understand how this could affect your communication with them.
  • Continually strive to improve your self-awareness by paying attention to your thought processes, choice of words, tone of voice, and body language.
  • Very often, people state opinions as facts – make sure you state your opinions as opinions, which are subject to change at your discretion.​

Remember, before conveying a message, ask yourself what your intention is. Are you trying to be right instead of trying to help? Are you adding value or just getting a point across? Are you really listening to what the other person is saying, or just using their speaking time to plan what you’re next going to say?

Timing is everything

In order to be afforded someone’s full attention, choosing the right time is essential for starting a conversation. Therefore, use your intuition to make a judgment on when it may be a good time for the other person to talk through your issue. 

It’s also good practice to ascertain from this person whether or not it’s convenient to talk, as this either gives you the go-ahead to discuss matters, or an opportunity to reschedule a more appropriate time.

More logic, less emotion

Communication tends to be ineffective when emotions are running high, as there is a greater potential for erroneous messages to be both sent and received.

Waiting until the next day to discuss things is often much more effective, as this cooling off period allows all concerned parties to reflect on the situation, so that they can discuss the issues more logically and rationally.

Location, location, location

Sometimes, getting away from the sports field and into neutral territory, can help both parties feel less defensive and more at ease. 

Wherever you choose to have a discussion, it’s more likely that effective communication will occur at a venue where neither party will be distracted or disturbed

You may also want to consider sending a message ahead of time to the person you want to talk to, outlining the discussion topic. This will allow both of you to agree on a mutually convenient place to meet, whilst giving the other person an opportunity to prepare adequately.

Body language

Before even saying a word, your body will have communicated a multitude of non-verbal messages which can set the tone for the rest of the conversation.

Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of what your body language is expressing to others, so that you are able to modify these subtle, yet powerful, messages.

To help with this, keep in mind the following…

Posture
A strong, upright posture, with your head held high, shows that you are confident in yourself, and in the message that you’re delivering.

Gestures
These are subtle behaviours, such as folding your arms, looking away, biting your fingernails etc., that show how you are feeling, so use them to promote, rather than distract from, your communication.

Space
Maintain a comfortable space between yourself and the other person or people – being too close may convey intimidation, being too far may show disinterest.

Eye contact
Balance is the key here – good eye contact is important, but overdo it and you may come across as too intense or confrontational. Conversely, avoiding eye contact may portray that you don’t fully believe in yourself or what you’re saying.

Facial expression
No matter whether you agree or disagree with someone else’s opinion, it’s important that you look interested and engaged in what he or she is saying. Your expression should also be consistent with your message.

Stay present

Great communicators listen very carefully to the other person, and then respond directly to that person’s message. As simple as this seems, many people don’t actual do this.

When the other person is speaking, most will use this time to plan what they are going to say next, and then say it, regardless of whether it’s relevant or not to what the other person was conveying.

By focusing too little on the other person, and too much on yourself, you’ll run the risk of misinterpreting them, whilst also coming across as having your own agenda.

Good communication occurs when both parties are focused on the present moment.

Assume positively

Most people tend to make judgments about others, yet at the same time don’t like to feel judged themselves, particularly when these assumptions don’t align with their own self-perceptions.

To avoid this, keep your assumptions simple, be open to changing your views, and assume the best in people rather than the worst.

By starting off with good assumptions, you will have greater patience and empathy…characteristics which are common in those who have good communication skills.

Tone of voice

Tonality can often be an accurate indication of how a person truly feels. For example, think of someone using an annoyed tone of voice when saying the word “fine” – your sensory acuity will probably lead you to the conclusion that they’re anything but fine!

Through matching your voice tone to your message, your communication will be much more clear and effective.

It’s not personal

It’s normal for people to see things from their perspective, and to conclude that others share the same view. But very often, they don’t. Even two people with similar backgrounds, and opinions can watch the same event, at the same time, yet form conflicting conclusions. 

So it’s a good idea to periodically remind yourself, when listening to someone else, that what they are saying is probably more about them, their perspective, and their emotional state, rather than being about you. A common example of this is when people come across someone who is in a bad mood, and then assume that they must have done something to upset that other person. Most often, they haven’t.

By overestimating your influence on people, you overestimate your role in their lives, which can cause you to misinterpret their point of view.

Never say “never”…or “always”

When it comes to referring to human behaviour, the words ‘always’ and ‘never’ are generalisations that tend to be untrue, as very few things always or never occur.

By using sweeping generalisations, it usually makes it difficult for people to recover from your statements that they behave like this “all the time”, or “none of the time”, mostly because these are false beliefs.

As a result, they will feel attacked, spending a lot of energy defending themselves against your generalisations, thus causing communication to slow down, or even finish completely. 

Following up

Quality communication doesn’t stop at the end of a conversation or meeting. It’s important to follow up with the other person, so that you can clarify that he or she precisely understands your message and point of view…and vice versa.

By following up, such as by sending an email, you’re confirming that you listened closely to the other person, and that your message landed, as well as highlighting how important the issue is to you.

Furthermore, it also demonstrates that you have a high attention to detail, which is a key trait of successful people.

Beware of resentment

Anger is a natural and healthy emotion, which affects us all from time to time. Resentment, on the other hand, is toxic, and you decide whether to feel it or not.

Resentment is anger that you hold onto for lengthy periods of time. If you choose to be resentful, you’re living in the past, and it will negatively affect your communication abilities, as well as your athletic performance, coaching effectiveness, or parental influence.

Keep in mind that resentment doesn’t hurt the other person, as it’s only toxic for the person feeling it and holding onto it.

If you do start to experience feelings of resentment, stay focused on the present by thinking of each conversation as an isolated event – dragging baggage into a conversation from past communications or life experiences will not help you or the situation.

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