Communication sits at the heart of all our interactions whether they are written, verbal or non-verbal, and yet very few of us are formally taught how to communicate. We learn how to speak and to write, but not how to communicate; the one skill we require to function effectively within an organisation, or any relationship for that matter. When it comes to learning how to communicate, most of us rely on the observations we make witnessing the people around us communicate; our parents, teachers, friends, colleagues and employers.
I was recently facilitating an Ignite Your Confidence group coaching session where we were talking about methods to communicate assertively and one participant said ‘No-one speaks like that at work, I could never say anything like that.’ My response was ‘How many people do you know who you would consider as assertive communicators?’ The whole group looked stumped and there were a few minutes of silence. Finally the participant who made the original comment mentioned she had a friend who was great at communicating assertively, but she was the only person she could name.
This participant was reluctant to use assertive communication at work because she couldn’t see anyone else modelling it. However when she did practice implementing some of the assertive communication techniques at work the next week, to her surprise she got the positive outcomes she was looking. Not only did she feel more confident in herself, but her assertive communication improved project outcomes too. It didn’t even feel that awkward for her to communicate assertively in the end, even if she was the only person doing it.
It can be easy to assume that those around us, and particularly those senior to us, are good communicators. We have grown up learning to communicate by observing those around us, and while we inevitably learn some useful things we also unknowingly pick up bad habits and can be at risk of adopting unhelpful communication styles. This is especially true when working in high pressure environments, as good, assertive communication is usually one of the first things to go when pressure ramps up.
If you’ve ever wondered why your relationships are suffering at work or in your personal life it’s highly likely that communication is the root of the problem. If you don’t feel like you’re being taken seriously, or that your voice is being heard, or you just feel like you’re being walked over, then communication is the likely culprit too. And this is nothing to be ashamed of, because good communication is probably not being modelled around you.
You have a choice to do something about it though, and it’s very easy to learn. I strongly discourage you from waiting for a role model to show up because they may never come along. Take the reigns and do something about it for yourself, and be that role model for other people.
Some simple things you can do right away:
Learn your communication style
We all have a natural tendency towards a particular communication style, and this can be dependent on the situation we find ourselves in. When you know your default style, you are better able to start adjusting how you communicate. Learn more about the four communication styles in this great overview from the University of Kentucky here.
Raise your awareness
Begin shifting your attention to how you communicate in different situations. Notice what your body language and behaviour is when you communicate with different people. Notice the words you choose to use and the tone and force with which you use them. What are you projecting by the way you are communicating? Which communication style are you adopting in which situations?
Set clear boundaries
One of the best places to begin communicating assertively is around your boundaries because these can be quite easily reduced to short, clear, direct sentences. For example: ‘I don’t work weekends’ or ‘Commenting on my appearance is not appropriate. You need to stop.’ Want to improve your boundaries? Get access to my free Boundary Setting E-mail Course.
Want to learn to communicate more confidently?
Apply for the next Ignite Your Confidence group coaching programme.