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Jay Lutwyche talks effective communication

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Effective communication is vital in the workplace, so we spoke with Jay Lutwyche to hear his thoughts on what makes an effective communicator. Jay is Head of Development at Shakespeare Martineau and is responsible for their unrivalled Academy which empowers staff to achieve their ambitions. Jay will also be delivering part of our Leadership Development programme

In your experience, what is one of the most common barriers to effective communication?

Too often we just don’t listen! We merely hear what’s said, spending far too long in our conversations doing one of these things:

· Mentally making assumptions about what the other person is going to say next – ever thought to yourself “I know where this is going”, then switching off until they get to the part we’re expecting?
· Formulating our next input
· Focusing on the other person’s tone of voice, not their words, looking for that tonal cue that they’re coming to the end of their contribution, so we can jump in with ours.

Do you think our reliance on digital communication, such as email, has hampered the way we develop work relationships?

There are undoubted benefits of speed and convenience with digital communications, plus you have a copy to keep and refer back to, which is frequently helpful. However, this is all too often at the expense of simply picking up the phone, or better still going to see someone. I’m occasionally guilty of emailing my colleague sitting right next to me! Communicating face to face gives both of you the added benefit of seeing each other’s non-verbal signals, so it’s easier to avoid misunderstandings. On the phone we get tonal clues in the other person’s voice to help us interpret meaning or emphasis. So often emails aren’t taken the way we intended, even when we spent time crafting them carefully. Whenever you can, get off your chair and visit the other person, or at least give them a call.

What are your top tips for better communication at work?

Firstly, just listen! When you’re distracted by your own thoughts, tell yourself to focus back on the other person. The most effective and simple way to do this is to make eye contact with the other person. It’s hard to think about other things when you are looking them in the eyes. Don’t stare them out for the entire conversation (!), do give them the vast majority of your attention. If this feels uncomfortable, look at the bridge of their nose, between the eyes.

Secondly, don’t make assumptions, ask questions instead. Make them good open ones, starting with ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘how’ etc., rather than ‘do you’, ‘is it’, ‘can you’. “What do you think about that?” will elicit a more detailed and interesting response than “Do you think that…?”, which may well just get you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Unless that’s all you want, of course…

To learn more about how quality communication can help avoid unnecessary conflict and how you can use it to resolve difficult situations, join the Development Committee with Jay Lutwyche and Gemma Dipple of Shakespeare Martineau at the “Conflict and Communication at work” event taking place on the evening of 14th November 2017. Register for the event here.