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Communication problems often masquerade as people problems. It’s all too easy to hide behind the problems of “difficult” people, rather than courageously improving your own communication skills.
Communication skills can’t solve EVERYTHING, but they are as necessary to success in life as speed is to a racer.Research shows that people with excellent interpersonal communication skills earn on average almost $30,000 more per year. That could top a million dollars over a career, my friend! Click To Tweet
Soft Skills vs. Technical Skills
While technical skills allow you to progress in a linear fashion, “soft skills” have so many uses they can exponentially improve the results you have at work.
Here are three specific people problems that can be solved with properly targeted communication solutions.
Three basic people problems at work
1. Lack of respect.
The people problem of lack of respect shows up when your ideas are not taken seriously, when people interrupt you, or take credit for your ideas. While working 12-hour shifts in a coal mine sounds dark and depressing, not being respected at work is almost as bad.
Real life example: A former colleague, we’ll call her Nicki, suggested in a team meeting a solution to a nagging issue with employee parking. Nicki is ignored. Then Chris makes the exact same suggestion using slightly different wording and the boss thanks Chris for this great idea. Nothing is ever said to Nicki.
2. Lack of influence.
This people problem is one I struggled with in the past. When people don’t remember meeting you or don’t remember your name, that problem is a lack of influence. You have great ideas and solutions but no one is paying attention.
Real life example: When I was adjunct faculty at ECU years ago, there was another adjunct faculty named Mike. Mike was a police officer as well as part-time communication faculty. See I remember his name even though I last saw him over 12 years ago. We would meet in the shared faculty space every few weeks because of similar teaching schedules. Mike NEVER remembered meeting me, much less my name. Ouch!
3. Lack of accountability.
This people problem shows up when others don’t fulfill their end of the bargain. It can also look like extreme pickiness. You have to badger them to get the outcome that was agreed upon.
Real life example: A former colleague, we’ll call him Alfred, consistently had trouble getting his travel reimbursements on time. Worse, he would get multiple emails from the person in charge over in accounting. This accounting person was constantly challenging him and asking for resubmission of receipts.
Communication Skill Solutions
First of all, you have to accept that YOU have to be a more skilled communicator and stop blaming the problems on difficult, uncaring people. Mastery in communication means more control over interactions. More “yes” responses and more productivity result from better communication.
People with respect issues are often waiting for others to affirm them or their ideas. To solve this problem, they should take the risk to present solutions and ideas without outside affirmation. Such demonstrated self-confidence will command respect. Specific communication skills that can help in these cases are presentation skills, confident body language, and being proactive.
People with influence issues usually haven’t taken the time to make a more lasting impression on others. (Caveat: beware of influencing narcissists! That could be time and energy wasted as narcissists have trouble focusing on anyone but themselves.)
It seems counter-intuitive, but research firmly supports the relationship between listening skills and persuasion. To have more influence, strengthening communication skills like networking, establishing rapport, and even chit chat are key. When people believe you are concerned about them, they will remember you!
Many accountability problems result from lack of alignment. Take the time to see what kind of communicator you are dealing with: introvert or extrovert? detail oriented or big picture? relationship-oriented or bottom line?
Take the time to get agreement on both processes and outcomes in situations where you have accountability issues. Alignment supports accountability.
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