Developing and utilizing effective communication skills is crucial in building strong relationships, a crucial component of powerful team performance. Communication skills include the ability to listen and ask questions in order to clarify the message being communicated.
Royal Roads University has a culturally diverse population with students attending from all over the globe. Learning to effectively communicate within a diverse population can make communication challenging.
In our blended and online programs, RRU students are asked to work virtually in teams to complete a variety of team tasks and assignments. Virtual teamwork can offer flexibility and a range of communication options, but can also present unique challenges such as, coordinating across time zones, limited opportunities to connect socially, and digital misunderstandings.
Communication begins with understanding your own perspective and the willingness to determine how the other person views a situation.
Successful communicators develop skills for sending and receiving information with minimal loss of meaning. Key skills include:
- Engaging in open dialogue
- Deep listening practices
- Mutual Inquiry
- Clarifying your own perspective and assumptions
Effective Conversations using the Ladder of Influence
The ladder of influence is a tool for describing and dealing with mental pathways of increasing abstraction that start with observable data or situations but lead to a series of unstated assumptions and then to misguided, tacitly-held beliefs which can result in unfettered attributions, derailed conversations, or unproductive conflict. Watch this video to learn more.
Ladder of Inference
Image retrieved from Mind Tools
Checking out "your story"
If you want to create strong relationships to support teamwork, get clear about your "story" and others' "stories" and be powerful in your communication.
This term "Ladder of Inference" was initially developed by Chris Argyris, and subsequently presented in Peter Senge's "The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization."
Effective Questions & Inquiry
Asking effective questions and inquiring deeper helps make our thinking process more visible and explicit to others. Asking questions helps us hear what others have to say. It also allows for open dialogue and enables us to more clearly appreciate and understand different interpretations of events. For more on effective questions and inquiry, view the PDF below.
Virtual Communication Tips
We live in a virtual world, so working online with your team can be equally effective if you take the time to build your team as you would in person. The information about the ladder of inference applies to any mode of communication; however you will especially need to consider your writing and comments in an online platform. We highly suggest that you have many opportunities for collaborative meetings, where you can see each other's faces. Hearing and seeing each other can help to minimize assumptions of tone when we read messages.
Identify what communication platforms will work for your team's needs. Do you want to see each other's faces? Would you like to be able to record your meetings? Would you like to be able to use instant chat/text between meetings?
Different Mode's of Communication:
- Brainstorming: Linoit, Padlet, Mindmup
- Document Sharing: Google Drive, Dropbox
- Project/Time Management: Google Calendar, Asana, Trello
- Communication: Moodle Forums, Google hangout, Blackboard Collaborate, Skype, Slack, WhatsApp
Deep listening occurs when we feel zoned into another person's thoughts and feelings as well as our own. Mindful listening can only happen when we have created mental space that is free from distractions, judgements, hasty interpretations, assumptions and pre-emptive conclusion. When we are deep listening, we are feeling highly receptive to the essence of meaning from our conversations with others. We are feeling interested, quietly engaged, focused, and open to being influenced.
When we are zoned in, it should feel effortless and not forced. As Bailey (2007) indicated, "we aren't analyzing or figuring out- we are simply letting the feelings and sounds affect us. Deep listening is not defensive, argumentative, or intrusive. It is not about struggling to analyze or interpret. It is a purely receptive state of mind."
When we listen deeply, we let go of any beliefs we have about the other person. We let go of our prejudices and past memories of him and her and hold space for the person speaking.
Listen to William Ury discuss the The Art of Listening