The key principles of sustainable communication
Sustainable communication leads to greater efficiency, greater productivity, and better relationships. It is, therefore, paramount to create communication strategies that are long-lasting and effective. After all, whether you communicate with individuals, team members, or groups, the key to success in any relationship is good communication – quality communication that can be sustained in the long run.
Let’s consider the key principles of sustainable communication:
It starts with Responsibility
Sustainable communication is not a one-way street. In communication, there are two parties. Both need to take responsibility if the communication is going to be sustainable – i.e. if it is going to be maintained at what you consider to be an acceptable level. Moreover, it is necessary to make sure that both parties get the opportunity to share their ideas, thoughts, opinions, feelings, etc. Both parties need to feel heard and be able to share what’s on their mind. If you feel that the other party is taking over the conversation, you need to make them aware of this. Maybe they do not dominate the conversation as such, but keep interrupting. If someone is continually interrupting, make them aware of it and tell them to give you a chance to finish what you need to say. Ultimately, it is also the responsibility of both parties to respond (or reply, if communication is in writing) in a satisfactory manner.
Do not talk in riddles
Another key principle for sustainable communication is clarity. Each party needs to understand what is being communicated. Firstly, those initiating the communication need to know what they want to convey. They need to know the purpose of their communication and make clear what it is. (Looking for support, or giving support? Seeking advice, or giving advice?) With a purpose that is clear from the start, the recipients will be better equipped to clearly understand what is required of them. The initiator needs to make sure that what is communicated is meaningful. The recipient, on the other hand, must not hesitate to ask for clarification, if necessary.
Transparency the key of sustainable communication
Lack of transparency is often a common reason why relationships between two parties are not working. Be truthful. Be honest. Be transparent. Honesty breeds trust, which is an important pillar of sustainable communication. So, put your cards on the table – share your thoughts and intentions, and encourage others to do the same. If there are details that are not appropriate to share (e.g. details that are undisclosed due to confidentiality) the recipient needs to know this, to avoid suspicion. (It is better to be told that information is held back than to feel that information is held back.) Transparency will nurture trust, support, and engagement.
Why you need to be Approachable
Approachability is vital for sustainable communication. Those with whom you communicate need to know how to reach you and feel comfortable in doing so; it only takes one instance of unapproachability to make others feel slightly hesitant to reach out to you. It is also important that one feels comfortable asking questions and sharing ideas or concerns. Sustainable communication is not a monologue, but a dialogue in which both parties can express themselves freely. They do not feel threatened in any way. They feel issues can be raised and mutual solutions are offered.
Sustainable Communication is all about the right Timing
Sustainable communication is quality communication. Quality communication requires time. Time to think carefully about what needs to be communicated, plus of course, time to engage in the actual communication. This all sounds very technical, but time is a crucial requirement for sustainable communication.
Sustainable communication is the foundation of a great relationship with colleagues, clients, and others. Every relationship requires effort, and part of that effort is time for quality communication. If communication is rushed it appears that it is not important. It may even appear that the person with whom you communicate is not that important. So, be mindful of time as well as timing – in sustainable communication it is not only how you communicate, but also when you communicate that matters.
Listening is extremely important in sustainable communication. Good listening is a starting point for people working well together. Without it there is no sustainable communication, for listening is vital in ensuring people feel heard and acknowledged.
Active listening cultivates a sense of respect. (It makes others feel that they are important enough to be listened to and that their opinions matter.) This, in turn, supports productivity and reduces opportunities for potential misunderstandings.
Be mindful that listening and talking can be literal or figurative – i.e. when it comes to mediums that do not involve physical speaking and hearing, like written communication. Read thoroughly. If necessary, read twice, so that you understand what is said.
Sustainable Communication: Let’s connect!
For communication to be sustainable it is vital to express feelings and opinions calmly and to resolve conflict points before they can escalate and grow into something more serious.
If the conversation involves points of contention the focus should be on the current issue and the emphasis should be on finding a solution. Manage negative emotions effectively by exercising self-control to regulate emotions and anger. Do not equate disagreement with conflict. Listen, without attacking or accusing. Show understanding and give suggestions for solving the issue at hand.
Sustainable communication implies effective communication. It means that both parties listen, understand, and take action on what has been communicated. Ultimately, sustainable communication is about building bridges that can be used again and again.