Communicare to Create Relationships
Every day, a great deal of your job involves communication. Receiving information, moving it around, and getting it to where it needs to go so that you can digest the next set of bits and bytes. Unfortunately, that process is not really “communication”; it’s “information flow.”
In the modern era, it’s easy to mistake information for knowledge and information flow for communication. Telling someone something or forwarding them information isn’t the same as communicating with them. Communication involves at least two people having a multi-sided conversation. That’s why the Latin word for communicate is “communicare.”
Care is often what’s missing in our communications. Put another way, we often don’t care what the other person is saying. We only care about what we have to say and how important it is for the other party to understand the information we’re imparting to them. This is a transactional flow of information born from our innate need to be heard and hardened by the demanding crucible of the modern workplace. It’s a poor substitute for a relational conversation, and it’s part of the reason why so many workplaces struggle with culture.
There is a time and a place for critical conversations and transactional one-way information flow. The key is knowing when to have a relational conversation and when to just let information flow. Unfortunately, information flow has now become our default setting, and our relational conversation skills are left to wither, unused, in our toolkit.
How Can We Return Care to Our Communications?
A good place to start returning care to your communications begins with objectively assessing each situation instead of merely reacting to it or defaulting to a transactional mindset.
- First, consider the medium.
- Next, evaluate the message.
- Finally, decide whether or not to communicare.
Let’s look at each step more closely…
1. Consider the Medium
In-person conversations allow the best opportunity for you to communicare. The challenge is to evaluate the conversation and determine whether it’s transactional or an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation.
Video chat and telephone calls can be care-inducing communication mediums when used deliberately. Email, text, instant message, and meetings with the dreaded PowerPoint presentation are most often not care-inducing communication mediums. They are primarily designed as transactional, one-way information flows.
2. Evaluate the Message
Here’s what to consider:
- Does the communication you received require a response?
- If no, it’s probably transactional.
- If yes, does it require a binary Yes/No response or an additional action?
- If action is required, is it simply the exchange of additional information or is a conversation required?
- If conversation is required, is the original medium the best choice, or should you switch mediums?
- If you switch mediums, which one is both practical and conducive to a communicare-style conversation?
3. Communicare Through a Relational Conversation
Once you’ve decided to communicare, keep the following tips in mind to make your conversation relational and not transactional:
- Exercise patience and restraint. – Before the conversation begins, be clear in your mind about the outcome you think you want or need. Then set that aside and focus on the other person. The conversation may reveal that what you actually need is markedly different from your original starting thought.
- Listen first and speak last. – This will be your highest hurdle because you’re not only swimming against a cultural current but also your own innate desire to be heard.
- Ignore most of your thoughts and focus on the other person. – This will be the second hardest thing to do as thoughts will continually flood your mind. Ignore them.
- Ask more questions than you provide answers.
- Don’t interrupt the other person.
- When you are interrupted, recalibrate. – If someone answers you before you finish speaking, pause and let them go on. Then decide whether to ask your question again instead of going with the new direction. There’s a better than average chance that the other party answered the question they thought you were asking instead of your actual question.
- Be genuinely engaged. – Do not attempt to fake engagement. If you can’t express genuine interest in the other person, don’t try to communicare.
Prepare to Work at It
Communicare-style conversations require effort and a deliberate mindset. Making them work for you will always be a work in progress, but with practice, they will become easier to master. And, if you take nothing else away from this article, remember that real communication is not the same as the flow of information.