“Good management begins with good people.”
Or so said Paul Newman in the movie Cool Hand Luke.
Communication is probably the most overused but least understood term in any organization. If you look at any employee survey, the biggest complaint is “lack of communication by upper management.” How often have you heard, “No one told me that”? Or, how about the familiar phrase, “Well, they don’t listen to me.”
First, all organizations can probably do a better job of getting the message out. We are told that in radio advertising one must hear a message seven times before it registers with the brain. The visual message must be seen four to five times before the brain acknowledges and comprehends the intent. So, undoubtedly, we can all do a better job of making sure that needed information is issued repeatedly and in a manner best suited to the intended audience.
However, complaints about lack of communication are too often made by people prone to talking and telling instead of listening and learning. To truly communicate, one has a responsibility to find out what the other party really wants or hopes to achieve. Once this is accomplished, then and only then can you communicate from a position of strength.
Here are a few other ideas for enhancing communication.
- When a person asks a question, let him or her finish even if you know what they are going to ask.
- Demonstrate to the other person that you are listening by focusing your eyes and body language in a positive and open manner.
- Listen to the “music” of the message, as well as the words.
- Show concern and empathy.
- Be willing to repeat, in positive terms, what you think you have heard the person say.
- Give the speaker validation that you understand his or her message or request.
All too often, people are confused about whether they are not being heard or if someone is simply not acting on their suggestions or wishes. A hard lesson for many people to learn is that not getting your way does not mean that your ideas, thoughts, and expressions are not valued. It simply means that rejection is a part of communication as well.
A thriving workplace where people feel empowered is one where everyone’s ideas and suggestions are given opportunity for expression. However, not being acted upon is not the same as not being heard.
Finally, never underestimate the power of words. Say what you mean. Human beings are incapable of moving away from the reverse of an idea. A negative motivation is simply a motivation to the brain. Our subconscious brain, which is where the motivation for our behaviors dwell, cannot comprehend a “Do, but don’t” command. We move forward and toward what we visualize. Research has demonstrated that positively worded statements are one-third easier to comprehend than their negative counterparts.
The next time you hope to achieve a positive action from someone, I would suggest you leave them with a positive comment on what you want, not what you don’t want.
Dennis Vicars, CEO of Human Services Management Corporation (HSMC) and Executive Director of the Professional Association for Childhood Education Alternative Payment Program (PACEAPP).
Sandy Houston is a cofounder and past board member of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, as well as founder of the Arizona Montessori Charter Schools Consortium. She has owned and operated charter schools over a career spanning 42 years, and has opened nine private Montessori schools and four charter schools. She was trained in the Montessori method by Mario Montessori, the son of the famed Montessori founder, Dr. Maria Montessori. She serves as the International Montessori Council chair for charter schools. Contact Sandy through the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. All emails will be forwarded on to her.