"Interconnectivity" seems to be the category in which most technological advancement is directly impacting our lives. There appears to be an over-abundance of companies, methods, and means by which we can communicate. All this advancement has changed things - radically - some for the better, some for the worse.
What hasn't changed, however, is the importance of communicating well. No matter who you are, what you do, and what you plan on doing, you will likely benefit from becoming better at communicating.
Consider how many different means by which we can interact with one another:
- Telephone messages
- Voice message applications
- Video conferencing
- Social Network Sites
- Chat rooms and forums
- Greeting Cards
- Video platforms
- Photo platforms
- Addressing a meeting or small gathering
- Carrier pigeon
- Smoke signals
Given the preponderance of communication media, and the growing amount of communicating we do, I would recommend that we begin to consider communicating to be one of the "categories" in our lives. We tend to think in terms of categories such as fitness, finances, and family. Perhaps it's time to add Communication to the list. What I am suggesting is that it becomes an area in which we intentionally monitor our performance, and hold ourselves accountable for improvement.
Let's start with big picture stuff:
Communication should be Clear - how many inscrutable emails do we get?
It should be Often - don't make people wonder, especially in areas of problems (creditors, for instance) or intimacy. Stay in their minds.
It should be Honest - you are only as good as your word. Old fashioned, maybe, but truer today than ever.
It should be Professional but Fun - in today's casual world, it is still okay to be proper, correct, and upstanding in your messaging. However, don't forget to pump your personality into it, too. Nobody likes boring!
HOW you communicate something is critical! You can have the right words, but say them or communicate them in the wrong way, and you've done more harm than good.
Listening will always be a big part of good communication. When it comes to listening, be active, sincere, engaged, with good eye contact, and avoid interrupting. If necessary, have people repeat things back to you, or even summarize key points back to them.
Remembering names is another critical area of good communication. There is no excuse for being bad at this. One of the hottest tips I can give in this department is to always try to be first to introduce yourself, whether to a lone individual, or in a crowd. The reason for this is that you are informed ahead of time, so to speak, that a new name will need to be remembered, and you won't have to be caught off guard. Walk up to the person(s) and initiate, eagerly listening for the name(s). Then, immediately, repeat it back to yourself multiple times as the small talk flies. The name is, by far, the most important thing you need to take away from this initial encounter. Also, repeat it aloud once they've said it. This will both help you remember it because now you're hearing it a second time, and the other person always likes to hear her name spoken anyway. Plus, it shows that you care enough to make a point of remembering it.
Now, when it comes to all those methods of communicating listed above, there are several things to know.
1. Be sure and use the appropriate means to match the situation. For example, don't handle conflict with voice mail, email, or text. It's best done face-to-face.
2. In most cases, your relationship with another person will require a mix of several of the above.
3. Understand that response times have decreased, and people almost demand to hear back from you right away. You can fight this a little bit by establishing "policies," as in, "It's my policy to answer emails within 24 hours." In this way, no one can complain if you don't respond to one in four milliseconds!
4. Think about your privacy rights, and those of your children. Anything and everything you post becomes public and permanent (with the exception of a few questionable app services which are trying to correct this). Do you really want those private moments on display for the whole world? Will your children want that record of their "awkward years" out there forever? Are the photos you're posting causing a security risk because the world knows exactly where you are and who you're with? Is it obvious your house has been left unattended? Did you just inadvertantly alert the world to the location of your child? Just give it some thought and establish some boundaries for yourself.
5. Also think about legalities. Most people don't realize that all of their communication can be subject to a court order of discovery and can be used against them. It may be unlikely, but if it's ever happened to you, it will forever change how flippant you are with what you communicate, to whom, and how.
I could go on for pages and pages in each of these areas, but mostly just wanted to open up the subject here at a high level. The overall goal is to make communication a category in our lives, and strive to be intentional and excellent at doing it.
Ultimately, communication is simply expressing to the outside world who you are at heart. So, when it comes to communication, always try your "heartest."