More common misconceptions in the workplace

Here is a bonus post for this week.  I try to post twice per week, but this topic keeps eating at me and I feel compelled to expound one more time just for good measure and emphasis.

My first post on common misconceptions discussed “being busy and accomplishment” while the second touched on “friendship and being friendly”.  These two posts touch upon some key things to be alerted to and to avoid in the workplace and in life.  Today I will give a few more examples of common misconceptions to see and avoid.

  • Talking and Communicating
  • Listening and Understanding
  • Nodding and Supporting

I know a lot of people who talk a lot and I can be one of them.  Some of these talkers do a very good job of communicating with others while many of these talkers never communicate at all.  Why the difference?  Here are a few reasons:

  • communication is a two-way process, just talking is one way only
  • good communicators listen well, many talkers never listen
  • good communicators check for clarity, many talkers never clarify anything because they are always thinking about what they want to say next
  • good communicators engage others and allow space for other participation

When you are meeting with someone consider the following:

  1. How often does this person speak?
  2. How often does this person check for understanding?
  3. Does this person seek to engage others in the discussion?
  4. Is this person listening and comprehending the overall tone and direction of the conversation?

It is amazing to see how often this simple issue is overlooked and I see evidence of it often in my executive search practice.  Communication is crucial and talking is just one small snippet of communication.

Listening and Understanding is a “first cousin” to Talking and Communicating.  Some of the most effective people I know listen and understand extremely well.  Let’s review a few items to consider:

  1. Good listeners pause and allow others to speak
  2. Good listeners ask questions for clarification
  3. Understanding involves non-verbal items such as posture, eye contact and other types of body language; good listeners look at others when they speak and they also use some good non-verbal cues such as nodding, smiling or expressing concern, when issues are discussed

Listening is a skill and that means it can be improved with practice through experience.  You cannot become a better listener by reading about it in a book.  You must practice, practice and practice some more.

Nodding and Supporting are “children” of Listening and Understanding.  In the same way that listening supports communication, Nodding supports listening.  I don’t mean that you look like a “bobble head” or the little dog that many boomers remember from the back window of cars in the 1960’s. 

Here are some cues to consider in Nodding and Supporting:

  1. Non-verbal cues such as a supportive nod or leaning in while listening can send a very strong message of interest, engagement and support
  2. Supportive behavior can also be verbal; some of the best verbal support will arise when a statement that conflicts with the  norm is brought up; I have seen many occasions where a conversation gets headed in one direction and the rest of the group is afraid to change the direction of the thread, regardless of their agreement; finding someone strong enough to dissent is important ( and a key factor in choosing team and board members) and supporting that dissenting view can be very important if that dissenting view has merit

Communicating, Understanding and Supporting are key attributes to having effective communication.  Simply Talking without Communicating, Listening without Understanding and Nodding without Supporting are hollow actions.

Practice your communication skills and seek feedback from those you know and respect to ensure that you are communicating effectively.

Your future and that of your organization will be better for it.