In his book, A Cidade dos Sábios (roughly translated as The City of The Wise), Luis Antônio Baptista describes his own experience as a psychologist [translated by myself, emphasis mine]:
I’m now at a psychiatric ward … the trainee starts reporting the results of a diagnostic interview … She claims the patient looks like this, feels this or that, that [the patient] can be described like this, and so on. … The trainee disserts about her experiences with great enthusiasm, but the void persists: an ironic and promising void.…
All of a Sudden, as if provoking her, I ask about the patient’s eye color. She couldn’t remember [sic]. The smell, the face, the hands – also forgotten.
What can we learn out of this? Certainly, we can learn that even psychologists fail at communicating to their patients sometimes. Therefore, learning how to develop communication skills is something not only impossible to master, but also impossible to get right all the time. Why am I reading this, then?, you might think – maybe somewhat angry I didn’t answer you right away. Keep reading, however: the answer to your question (and to this article) is soon to follow.
Communication Skills Can Be Improved
That’s right: communication skills are like the Pi (π) constant: you’ll never get 100% there (because, to begin with, it doesn’t only depend on you, and / or you might be having a bad day and are less willing to talk, and so on). However, you can always get closer and closer to your goal by following a few tips:
- Don’t be ethnocentric – today, we live in a global society, and this translates into the possibility of dealing with a co-worker with values much different than the ones we have. Being “ethnocentric” means you consider your culture as “always right,” whereas anything that doesn’t conform to your culture is “always wrong.” If you always devaluate somebody’s cultural heritage and consider it inherently wrong, you’re setting up a permanent communication barrier.
- Try to understand the world of this person and to accept its uniqueness – this means not only to respect someone’s tastes about music or food, but also trying to experience something from his/her world. Ok, so maybe you don’t like listening to Britney Spears, but is it possible that you make an effort to listen to her so you can know what your co-worker / friend is talking about? Remember: communication is understanding.
- Try to reach a common ground – Remember when I said developing perfect communication skills is possible? That’s because, as you might have already noticed, there’s not a single person in the world that think exactly the same as another. That’s why (especially in delicate situations) a good approach is to talk cordially to co-workers about what you two like and avoid sensitive topics.
- If someone doesn’t respond to your efforts, do not insist – remember: it takes two people (or more) to communicate – you cannot do the whole job alone. If none of the above hints work, avoid talking to your co-work until (s)he reconsiders and decides talking to you; insisting will only make both sides angry and frustrated.
- Use education to improve your communication skills – Undertaking a course of study such as an organizational development degree or an online communication skills course can help to improve your ability to connect with others. As a starter, sign up to our mailing list for your free guide.