How To Improve Communication In The Workplace

How To Improve Communication In The Workplace

How To Improve Communication In Your Workplace 

By Mark Wager

One of my favourite quotes is by playwright George Bernard Shaw who once said “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” I love this quote so much because It perfectly describes what happens in workplaces everywhere. I see people who believe they are communicating with each other but in reality everyone is talking and no one is listening, frustration starts to build which leads to people repeating what they said previously but this time louder expecting different results but the only result is more and more frustration. In many workplaces a lot of words have been shared but no effective communication has occurred, only the illusion that it has taken place. In this weeks article I want to share with you a communication model that will help you understand yourself and other people better and improve communication in your workplace 

It’s not what you say it’s what people hear that matters. 

As people we all have the tendency to interpret what people are saying to us through the lens of how we ourselves communicate therefore we assume the intent of the other individual and while a lot of times we are correct there will be times when we are wrong. We are assuming someone is being critical but in reality they are trying to help or someone sounds like they are lacking confidence but in reality they don’t feel the need to brag. It’s amazing how similar but at the same time how different we all are. The key is to understand and embrace these differences and here’s how to achieve just that

The elements of communication. 

The best way to think about communication is to compare it to a picture puzzle. We all have the same pieces which when put together make a complete picture but for each of us those pieces are cut slightly differently. All are a different size and while the finished picture is the same the pieces have to be put together in a slightly different way and it’s only when we understand where each piece needs to be placed  we are able to communicate effectively because we are all looking at the same completed and clear picture. So what are these pieces and how can we identify them?

The 4 elements to the communication model is something that I have designed and have used on many occasions to help improve people’s communication skills by exploring how while we share the same qualities each of us has a set of preferences and some of these preferences are more dominant than others. So let’s start with explaining what these preferences are and remember we each possess all of them but not all in the same proportion.

Fire - it’s all about fairness and doing what’s right. 

Fire is incredibly powerful yet can easily get out of control and take on a life of its own. People who tend to have a preference for the fire element tend to communicate based on values and in particular their impact on people. For them words are not enough caring and empathy are best demonstrated through individual attention. These qualities can make them a powerful voice within a team but like fire they can also find that they get burnt by their words often being misinterpreted as not being professional or unable to put business ahead of people because for the fire element it’s the people that make the business and not the other way around.

Water - it’s all about the end result 

Water can be incredibly flexible to navigate through but in certain circumstances water can form a wave that is as tough as a brick wall. People who have a preference for the water element when communicating can be very accomodating but have very clear ideas of priorities and when crossed become very inflexible. It's the end result or objective that matters and if that means the needs for an individual  to be compromising in order to achieve that then that’s an acceptable outcome. These people are often misinterpreted as being cold, distant or uncaring when the reality is the opposite they just don’t see the need to openly demonstrate those emotions because their actions should speak for themselves.

Earth - let’s get practical

The people who have a high proportion of Earth within their communication style tends to talk in a very practical way. They need any benefits to be so tangible that you can touch them. It’s through this practical approach that their ideas are formed like a tree rising from an acorn they use their experiences alongside facts and figures in order to identify the steps to realistic outcomes. Just like the earth below them when their position is in place and their mind is made up they are be very difficult to move which can lead to them  being misinterpreted as negative or old fashioned yet these people are not opposed to change but instead opposed to change for the sake of change 

Air - it’s all about possibilities 

When we look at the sky it can at times seem endless and while we can’t see the air around us we know it’s there. This preference for communication can allow the person to see solutions that others can’t see, often described as innovative and visionary these are true “big picture” thinkers. The Air element of communication means they are often attracted to possibilities which can lead to them being misinterpreted as dreamers and unrealistic yet in reality they don’t want to be bound by the past or allow facts and figures to prevent them from reaching for the skies. Just because we haven’t done it already it doesn’t mean we can’t do it it.

You may well associate strongly with one of the above descriptions or you may see a part of yourself in all of them and that’s fine because each element is a piece of a puzzle and it’s only when we put them together that the illusion of communication is replaced with clarity. It’s not what we say it’s what people hear that matters and it’s only when we challenge our understanding and adjust our communication that we really start talking. 

Mark Wager has limited availably to coach ambitious Leaders who wish to achieve a higher level of performance. If you are interested then you can contact Mark using the enquiry form below

Posted: Monday 15 August 2022

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