UGH! DID I SAY THAT OUTLOUD?
Communication in any relationship whether work, church, or family is like blood to the body. If it isn't flowing, the body is dead. But it is also one of the hardest things to keep flowing. We often think we said something clearly but the other person heard something entirely different and acted on that perception causing a resultant, uh, shall we say, disturbance in the relationship or outcome of some kind.
I have a husband who is particularly fun to work with in this area. First of all he speaks "MAN" which is point and grunt. Then when he does use words he says things in a Pennsylvania Dutch way which is a complete foreign language unto itself. On top of that if he writes a note with orders for me or his secretary, he uses his own form of abbreviations known only to him. So this has been quite an adventure for me to keep the communication flow going for my staff at the ministry as well as in my marriage. As a result I have learned and practiced some steps that make the flow a little easier.
Listen Carefully - We are often actually focused on ourselves and what we are doing and thinking, so, like an eavesdropper we only get part of the communication but think we understand it all. You may need to ask the other person to wait a minute so you can complete what you are doing and then give them your full attention.
Reflect Back - You need to say, "What I'm hearing you say is..." or "let me say that in my own word so that I know I got it." It's also important to ask the other person to tell you what they heard you say. Sometimes we do say things backwards and sometimes they listen backwards so this step helps clear that up and gives each a chance to say it in a different way that may be better understood. I found this is an easy step to skip because it takes more time than I want to invest right now. But resolving a conflict or messed up project that resulted from poor communication takes much more time and energy.
Check Up - After the other person gets started putting things into action check on how it's going for them. There may be a need that will surface as they are going that could use some resolution, re-clarifying or correction.
Show Gratitude - People always move toward praise. Your employer, spouse or child never gets enough genuine recognition of the good and right things they do. Don't you feel that way yourself? Always praise character not just the job. Say, "I really appreciate your attentiveness to detail in this." or "I admire your perseverance in such a hard job." You can compliment thoroughness, cheerful willingness, cooperation, insight and many other qualities. If you want them to develop it more, then compliment what they have and they will focus more on it.
Communication is a game of toss and catch. Someone says something to you, they tossed you a ball. You say something that shows you heard it, you catch the ball. Now you add a thought to the subject, you toss the ball back. They make a statement showing they heard your addition to the subject and add something themselves, they caught the ball and threw it back. Once you get the hang of it you'll find it's not really all that hard and the flow of communication will keep the relationship or work alive.