Good communication skills — especially listening

Communication is the bread and butter for a manager. There is a lot of information which needs to be processed and communicated by a manager in all directions, to his directs and beyond, to his management chain, and also to many other parallel groups.

Communication is NOT smooth talking. Many people confuse good communication with fast talking or smooth talking, where one person dominates a discussion and the other party.

Good communication is not a love of talking. A rather quiet person, who can listen to others and respond with clarity, is a much more powerful communicator than somebody who simply loves to talk.

Communication includes all forms of communication, the usual written communication such as e-mail and formal memos, letters, and so on. New age communication such as SMS, Instant messaging, and so on, and verbal communication, via phone or video conference and with the person face-to-face.

Body language is also part of communication, although it's becoming less of a factor given that a majority of communication is not face-to-face anymore. Even people who sit half a floor away communicate via e-mail or IM. The tone of your voice over phone or tone of your instant message plays an important part in perception of the message.

Good communication skills also include understanding your audience and communication in such a way that the audience can understand and communicate back to you. As such, your communication style will change a little based on the audience it's intended for.

Finally, the single biggest factor in good communication is listening. Unfortunately, the importance of listening gets lost very often and a large population of people suffer from a lack of listening.

Especially in India, people tend to cut into a discussion or start talking before the other person has finished, and perhaps get impatient to answer with the assumption that they know what the other person is talking about. Indian managers do need to work twice as hard to develop good listening skills.

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