In today’s environment of often dispersed teams, cultural differences in communications can make effective communication difficult. However, there is a simple approach that will ease communication between team members.
Listen – to understand
Constructive team communication requires effective listening, and it can start with you. By this I mean not just hearing what your fellow teammates have to say, but actually listening. You don’t have all of the best ideas. Your team members have important contributions to make. Listen to understand – not just to find an opening to make your own point.
Listening to understand helps to create an environment where everyone has a chance to talk, everyone has a chance to be heard, and team members tend to express empathy by paying attention to how other team members are feeling. Creating this environment can start with any member of the team. When people feel that they are being heard they are more likely to hear what others have to say.
Reflect back what you heard – to ensure that you actually understand
It’s often helpful to summarize a key point being made by a co-worker so that they know that you are effectively listening to understand, and to confirm for yourself that you do indeed understand. This can be as simple as saying something along the lines of, “Just to make sure I understand your point, I think I hear you saying [summarize the point]. Did I get that right?” You’ll want to be careful not to overuse this technique but used appropriately it can be an effective way to ensure that you are actually listening to understand, and that effective communication has occurred.
Share your thoughts – respectfully
Once you have heard what someone else has to say, speak up and share your ideas. Every team member has valuable thoughts and ideas to contribute, and to be an effective team member, you should step up and do so. However, you should do it in the most effective possible way – in a positive, confident, and respectful manner.
Keep in mind that not even the smartest person in the room can think of all the best ideas. A group of people with diverse backgrounds, experience, and upbringing will almost always come up with better ideas than any one member of that group could have done on their own. To get to the best ideas of the team its important for all of the team members to share their ideas.