Learn To Communicate With Your Team

Posted by Kristin Arnold on December 5, 2007

We all know people who talk a lot…but say nothing. In a team setting, we roll our eyes as soon as the talker opens their mouth. We brace ourselves for their words, just hoping they will get to the point sooner rather than later.

To be an effective team player, be aware of the message you are trying to send as you speak clearly to your team mates. Try these techniques to enhance your team speaking skills:

Think First. Before you subject others to your rambling thoughts, know what your own attitudes, ideas and feelings are. Then offer your unique perspectives as it adds to the team’s mission or goal. Speak for yourself. Don’t exaggerate with the grandiose “he said,” “she said,” “everyone thinks.”

Say What You Mean. Don’t beat around the bush. Be direct, clear and specific. Don’t mumble, ramble or speak so softly that others must strain to hear you. Otherwise, your team members will tune out and fill in the blanks for you.

Know Your Team Members. Balance your directness with a dose of sensitivity to how team members may react to what you say. Your goal is to express yourself so team members are able and willing to hear you.

Use Time Wisely. As the numbers in your team increase, the “airtime” becomes much more precious. Be brief and succinct. Make one point at a time. Avoid giving multiple reactions to someone else’s comment. If you do need to make several points, number them. Watch for cues that tell you the team is starting to tune you out.

Be Congruent. Make sure your comments, tone and body language match the feeling behind what you are trying to say. Watch your own non-verbal signals for “mixed messages” such as a negative facial expression while supporting someone else’s idea.

Be Additive. Speak when your contribution is relevant and not just a rehash of what someone else already said.

Ask for Feedback. As you are speaking, watch for subtle clues that the team is listening and understands what you are saying. If you don’t get some kind of response (verbal or non-verbal), ask for feedback to ensure you were understood.

Misfires are Inevitable. We have been talking since we were just a few years old, so you would think we would be speaking experts. Wrong! So often we hear “you just don’t understand,” and you’re not listening, as if the responsibility for effective communication rest with the listener. Accept the inevitability of a communication error. When both speakers and listeners accept responsibility for their errors, they are in the position to strengthen communication and team work.

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