Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve been told from time to time that I have decent communication skills in the workplace. I am well-spoken, clear and professional. I am able to speak publicly to both large and important audiences without hesitation. My writing skills reflect the same.
I sometimes am asked as to how I do this. Truth be told, it wasn’t always this way. And, there are still times where I experience anxiety or hesitation before speaking. Yet, you would not know it. The secret ? Practice and confidence.
I was forced early in my career to take a more active role. I had to speak at conferences. I became a leader and key person in large scale projects. With time, I became more confident in my abilities.
Even in those occasions where I had to wing it, and all those other times where I really didn’t have the answers – I tried not to falter in front of the audience. Instead, I focused on what I did know, and tried to communicate that effectively. When I didn’t have the answers, I was honest about it. I responded confidently with a “I don’t have an answer for you now, but I will definitely look into it and get back to you!”
It seemed all so easy – yet, I am still learning how to communicate. With all the confidence that I may have professionally, none of it transfers personally. It seems strange, but there are good reasons why:
1. Professional communication has rules. You know what you can and cannot say in a public situation. You know that there is a way to say it, and you can work with others if need be on how to script it. It doesn’t necessarily have to reflect your personal emotions or deep values.
2. You can take a course, consult colleagues and take on previous experience professionally. In fact, you’re likely to be praised for advancing this skill. There’s no negative stigma in getting help on it.
3. Learning how to communicate outside work is so personal. It has impact on everything. The stakes feel higher because you may feel as if you have more to lose. What you do and say in you personal life affects you in more ways than it would in your work life.
4. Lastly, no one is wants to admit that they don’t know how to communicate. Getting help on how to do it does have some negative stigma as well.
There is real difficulty in speaking honestly and clearly in your personal life. Have you ever had to confront someone to let them know that they’ve hurt your feelings ? Have you ever wanted to seek help, but was afraid of the judgment that may follow from others? How often have you found that your family or significant other “just didn’t understand”?
I used to be a person that didn’t have a filter. I tried to speak my mind, and got chastised for being so blunt and rude. I tried to be demure and quiet, and found myself more frustrated that people “just didn’t get it”. I tried to be overly nice and passive, and found that the recipient of my message misunderstood or didn’t get my point. What’s the right way?!
In therapy, I often brought up situations where I was feeling ignored or misunderstood. It was then that I learned about incorporating “I” Statements. When there is a problem or issue at hand, I focused on “you” communication, such as “You didn’t do xx” or “Why did you say that?”
You statements aren’t always effective. It immediately shifts blame to the recipient. People can get defensive or feel wronged. With “I” statements, this can be avoided.
I’ve been trying to say things along the line of:
“I felt hurt when…”
“I feel ignored when..”
So far, it’s been working. I feel more assertive with this style of communication. More importantly, I feel heard. It’s definitely not easy, but if I can learn to communicate at work, I can learn to do this for myself. With practice, we can all learn to communicate with one another effectively.
The “I” Style isn’t easy. It’s hard to get over the feeling of being vulnerable. It’s difficult to control your emotions and avoid a blame filled confrontation. Yet, it seems to be considerably effective. I definitely believe it’s a worth a try.
Have you had any experience with this style of communication?