What We've Learned About Effective Communication
Every day, we are grateful for the digital tools that allow us to communicate with a wide variety of teams on a global scale. Technology allows us to interact with so many fantastic people quickly and over long distances, but although these tools have countless advantages, they come with some drawbacks. One challenge is that we are not always used to this type of communication, leading to misunderstandings that can have an exponential impact. To increase our skills in this area, we attended a workshop with David Burgener on communicational effectiveness. David Burgener has extensive experience working and educating in communication and conflict resolution, and holds workshops and training in these areas as a part of his business, David Burgener Solutions in Communication. Burgener shared numerous skills and insights with us during this workshop, and we wanted to share key takeaways on listening, acknowledgment, and reframing.
There isn’t any one solution that will solve all communication problems, but rather multiple approaches that need to be tailored to the situation in question. However, most solutions need to start with listening. Sometimes when we think of communicating we focus on speaking, but it is really crucial to understanding each other by listening first. To listen accurately, we need to be mindful as to whether we’re really hearing the other person, or whether we are just present in the same room (or the same video call) and our thoughts are somewhere else.
After listening, one might think that the next step would be communicating our own thoughts immediately, but that would be missing a crucial step—acknowledging what the other person has just said. This is related to active listening, but is more intentional—we restate what the other person said with the purpose of checking that we understood, and identifying what the conversation is about. This can prevent the rest of the conversation from going off-topic. Acknowledgment is not the same as agreement, but an important way to give the other person a chance to clarify what they meant if the listener misunderstood, clearing up errors from the start. A similar strategy is summarizing, which is a longer acknowledgement at the end of a meeting.
Only after really listening and checking that we understood is it time to begin communicating our own thoughts. This is where we can start using strategies to solve any disagreements, and one important strategy is reframing. Reframing is changing the way a thought is stated so that the other person is more likely to accept it. It takes into consideration what the other person needs or feels, diffusing tension. It ensures that both participants have a common understanding of the problem and how it might be solved. When trying to find solutions, it’s helpful to be specific: identify what elements of a solution won’t work, and what elements might be acceptable. It’s important to find common ground and acknowledge limitations, as sometimes it’s impossible to solve all problems.
Communication doesn’t take place in a vacuum but is a part of who we are—our understanding of words is affected by our culture, beliefs, and perceptions. As our team contains and interacts with people from different backgrounds, it’s important to have an attitude of humility, not assuming we know best but considering the perspectives of others. We are truly grateful for this opportunity to grow and strengthen our knowledge in communication and look forward to becoming even better at listening and relating to people with different opinions and histories.