In every professional environment, it is essential to communicate effectively with your peers. This is particularly true during meetings, in which people expect to discuss a subject, reach conclusions and make related decisions in a short time. Here are seven rules of effective communication:
1. Respect Experience and Seniority
As I’ve discussed in a previous post, there is a very important difference between knowledge and experience. Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but most people reach senior positions through real competence and accomplishments. Thus you should always listen carefully to what the veterans have to say, even if it appears to be wrong. Most probably they can see something that you can’t, so if you disagree with their opinions first ask them to justify their point.
2. Don’t Interrupt the Speaker
If you are participating in a meeting, you should be very interested in understanding what the other participants have to say. But by interrupting others you are not giving them the opportunity to clearly communicate their opinion. This is first of all a sign of disrespect that may cause bad feelings. But interrupting others also gives them the right to interrupt you, creating a chain-reaction with very negative consequences.
3. Think Before You Answer
Of course we must think if we are not sure about the answer, but we must also think even if we could answer immediately. When participating in a meeting, we are not only interested in expressing our views, we must also be able to explain and justify our opinions. Especially when we know in advance that someone may disagree with us, we need to think about how to present our ideas in a clear and solid way.
4. Focus on the Subject
For meetings to be effective we must focus on the topic being discussed. There is a limited amount of time available to reach a conclusion, and we do not want to waste this time with parallel issues. If there are other important topics that need to be discussed they should deserve their own meeting. Thus when answering to someone always address directly the question, and never ask questions that are not related to the discussion.
5. Organize Your Speech
When answering a question you should define your priorities. Say the most important things first, and add more comments only in the case they are necessary. If you were asked several questions, answer them in the same order they were asked. Also, answer each question separately. It will be much easier for the other participants to understand you if you present your thoughts in a clear order.
6. Accept that You Don’t Know Everything
If you are asked a question for which you don’t have a good answer, it’s perfectly natural to say that you simply don’t know. Of course you should know the answer for any question directly related to your personal tasks. But when the topics being discussed are related to the work being done by teams of people, you’re not expected to know all the details.
7. Don’t Argue the Facts
You should have your personal opinion about all the important issues being discussed. This is the contribution that the other participants expect you will bring to the meeting. You should know how to explain and justify your opinions. But you should also know how to stop debating when you are presented with new facts that clearly contradict your view.
What do you think about these rules? Do you agree with them? Do you think that if people followed these simple rules their communication would be more effective? And what if I told you that these seven rules where written more than 2000 years ago, in a Jewish book of ethics called Pirkei Avot?
From Pirkei Avot, Chapter 5:
“There are seven things that characterize a boor, and seven that characterize a wise man. A wise man does not speak before one who is greater than him in wisdom or age. He does not interrupt his fellow’s words. He does not hasten to answer. His questions are on the subject and his answers to the point. He responds to first things first and to latter things later. Concerning what he did not hear, he says “I did not hear.” He concedes to the truth. With the boor, the reverse of all these is the case.”
Yes, technology has changed a lot in the last 2000 years, but it seems that human nature remains the same.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and will appreciate to hear your opinion, please leave your comments below.