New year, healthy habits, right? Everyone’s making resolutions to lose a few, or use their phone less, or abstain from something. We at Cobalt are feeling extra reflective about our past and mindful about our future, since 2020 marks our 15th year in business. We pulled together some communications resolutions — 15 to be exact — that we’d like to focus on for 2020.
- Listen more, talk less. People want to be listened to — and truly heard. But you can’t do that if you’re the one dominating the conversation via a long-winded monologue. Focus on what your conversation partner is trying to say and what the motivations behind their words might be.
- Give your key points space for emphasis. You don’t have to fill every pause in conversation with words; skip the ums, uhs, and other fluffy words to avoid muddling your point. The silence may feel awkward at first, but power through.
- Respect opposite points of view. When you’re talking to someone with radically different viewpoints than your own, it’s easy to write them off from the start. Resist that urge and try to go into a conversation with an open mind.
- Take the important stuff to phone or face to face. The more we email and text, the more nuances are lost in digital communication. You cannot tell tone over text, and an “umm, okay” may come off as aggressive when you mean it to be humorous.
- Don’t be afraid to yield control. Let your conversation partner lead the way; even if you go into the conversation or meeting with an agenda, sometimes getting “off track” is exactly where you need to be.
- Take notes. This might not be appropriate for personal conversations, but in the workplace it’s vital. Your notes should convey the essence of the conversation, and it’s likely you’ll refer back to them for continuity in that working relationship.
- Avoid distractions. We all know the feeling of having an important conversation with someone—and then they glance down at their phone to check a text or email. It feels invalidating, dismissive, and disrespectful.
- Be efficient. Get to your point quickly. A lengthy preamble can be a major waste of time and can dilute your intentions.
- Ask questions. When you ask questions, your conversation partner will feel like you are focusing on them and making a real effort to understand what they are saying.
- Repeat your key points. Be mindful of sounding like a broken record, but make sure you get your talking points across a few times. Repetition makes it more likely that your audience will remember what you said.
- Use humor. It’s truly the great equalizer. A laughable personal anecdote — or an attempt at a joke, even if it falls flat — puts people at ease and makes them more receptive to what you have to say.
- Respond in a timely manner. Don’t let an email or voicemail languish in your inbox for days. In the era of constant, instant communication, there’s no excuse for ignoring someone. Likely the sender will feel dismissed, and that will set the tone for future exchanges.
- Customize your communication style. Remember that not everyone learns and communicates the same way. One person might prefer a face-to-face conversation with a jovial tone, but another, shyer, reserved person would feel more comfortable with a professional email.
- Ask for clarification and repeat back. If there’s something you’re unclear on, ask. Or repeat back what the speaker says — a tactic of active listening — to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- Strive for clarity. Any communication, large or small, will be most effective when composed and delivered with clarity.
You’ve just read 15 points of communications best practices and advice—which you can take with you into 2020 with our best wishes for a successful year. And we promise to put them into practice ourselves, too, as we up our game for our 15th year in business.