By Genevieve Hancock
Senior Financial Reporting Analyst, Disney Parks and Resorts
Each person’s individual communication style comes across in many different ways. These types of communication can include a broad range of skills either direct or implicit in the way a person communicates. From your body language to whether you ask questions and imply empathy, learning how to communicate and match your communication style with your audience is essential in your career.
Forms of Communication
The form of communication that you use impacts the formality, as well as the documentation, of any communications in your academic or professional career. Knowing your audience can be very beneficial, as certain individuals prefer different means of communications above others. There are positives and negatives to each form of communication, as well, so keeping these in mind when deciding on how to communicate can be very beneficial.
Millennials have a tendency to prefer texting much more than previous generations, but the lack of formality of this channel for communicating can be viewed as nearly rude by the receiver. While email keeps a well-documented paper trail of what was said, it can sometimes be difficult to determine the meaning from sentence structures. Conveying detail and context via email can be difficult while also trying to write in a way that is not excessively complex and concise.
A phone call will allow you to convey all of the information needed in a short amount of time, but will likely need to be followed up with via email to ensure that there is a record of what was agreed to. Meetings or even stopping by to talk to someone can be seen as very formal by some, and can add a personal touch to the conversation, as long as the person is not busy and it doesn’t occur on a frequent basis. Again, in-person conversations will need to be followed up on to ensure both parties are on the same page.
There are different styles of communication you can take on, depending on what words you use and your tone of voice. Certain words are associated with a harsher connotation, even though the meaning may not have any negativity associated with it. The word “believe”, as in “I believe so,” can display a connotation of uncertainty, even if to the speaker that uncertainty is less than 1 percent. This is also heavily dependent on your audience, since you cannot always understand the associations your audience has had in the past with specific words. Without context, the word “secretary” can invoke the association of either an assistant or a piece of furniture, depending on the person. Identifying your own communication style and whether there are any patterns to the words you use can be helpful in adjusting that style to the needs of your subject and audience.
There are different voices you can take on, as well. Sarcasm and snide remarks are often referred to as passive-aggressive, and generally are considered inappropriate for the workplace. The aggressive voice is the one you generally hear talking in meetings and not listening to others. The passive voice generally phrases sentences where something happens to you, and not that you are doing something, such as “the file was completed by John” instead of “John completed the file.” This tends to take attention away from the subject (John). Although there are exceptions when your style will need to be flexed, the most beneficial voice to take in your career is the assertive voice. An example of this is by starting sentences with “I” statements, such as “I completed the Excel file,” will give you credit for the accomplishments you have achieved. Confidence and avoiding ambiguous and run-on sentences will also convey an assertive voice to your listener.
Developing the different skills used for communication — mostly softer skills involving emotional intelligence development — is crucial for having a two-way conversation. Most people don’t like to talk to someone who is ignoring everything that they say. Active listening skills are needed for positive communication. This means that a person is not listening to respond, but is listening to understand the other party’s point of view and needs. Conveying active listening by being patient, asking questions, rephrasing and reflecting what was communicated back to you in order to ensure your understanding, and maintaining eye contact, are all signs of an active listener. Displaying these signs of active listening convey respect to the communicator. Maintaining eye contact is also an example of non-verbal communication. Poor examples of non-verbal communication can include fidgeting and displaying body language, even if not intended, that tells the other party that you are disinterested in what they are saying.
Finally, empathy and genuinely trying to understand the other party, trying to put yourself in their shoes and feel what they feel to the best of your ability will help in trying to find a compromise and solution for whatever the request or conversation may be.
Putting it All Together
The keys to effective communication can be summed up in three takeaways:
- Know your audience. Listen to what their preferences are and work with them to the best of your ability in order to accomplish your goals.
- Stay flexible. Make sure that you are in touch with your audience and can adjust your style accordingly, if it is needed. There is a place and time for every type of communication.
- Be aware of yourself and your own communication style. If you realize that you normally speak in a passive voice, try adjusting a few sentences and words at a time to test out a different style.