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    Good communication skills?

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    By Julie Bales, PA, VA and Mentor to the Admin Profession

    Julie Bales, PA to Entrepreneur and author Dan Bradbury, shares what she believes is the true meaning of good communication skills…

    Definition of communication:

    Effective communication is a process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, knowledge, and information such that the purpose or intention is fulfilled in the best possible manner.

    As PAs, EAs and other admin-based roles, our communication skills have to be second to none. We are used to having to deliver information to a variety of people using a variety of methods. But in the changing landscape of how we’re working – are our communication skills going to be put to the test?

    I believe most people would think of communication as verbal, but it goes much deeper than that. I recently attended an online training webinar about the subject where the presentation gave us the statistics we’ve all probably heard before:

    • 55% of the message is delivered through body language
    • 38% tone
    • And just 7% is the actual message

    Pretty ironic seeing as it was on a screen. I couldn’t read the body language; I could turn off the sound and watch the text instead and the content could have been delivered in a written email.

    Experts believe that if you take away one of our senses, you’re 20% on the back foot already. No sight of the person – 20% loss in communication. Can’t hear the response, another 20% loss. Add this to the distraction of potentially being outside of your working environment, then how are we expected to communicate well now?

    For the majority of us, our working environments have massively changed over the past 12 months and the way we communicate has too. More of us are now expert in Microsoft Teams, can pull together a Zoom call within seconds and all know where the ‘camera off’ and ‘mute’ buttons are as standard.

    We’ve all been part of meetings where a list of blank screens and just names have popped up to show that someone is present. We can’t know from this whether the message that’s being delivered as part of the communication has been received and understood.

    I believe in our roles, we have been the eyes and ears on the ground for our Execs in seeing body language change, hearing snippets of info both good and bad at the coffee machine that might be relevant or just sensing a general atmosphere in the air. Without these added layers being available to us, I think it’s only going to become more difficult.

    The way we communicate with others is ever increasing, but are we going to be able to slow this down and say no more? Email, Text, Messenger, Facebook, LinkedIn and now Clubhouse – and the exchange element of these communications can always be mis-interpreted!

    We’ve all had a text that we’ve taken in the wrong way or have sent an email to the wrong recipient and as PAs it’s normally our job to pre-empt these issues but with the speed at which they’re coming we just don’t have the luxury anymore.

    I think the definition of communication should always be to make sure the message has been delivered, but to also make sure it’s being delivered by the most appropriate way. It’s got to be better to have a phone call rather than a one-way zoom call for a personnel issue. I don’t want to hear about an amendment to a contract in a What’s App group and I don’t need an email to tell me someone needs to finish a bit early!

    So, when you see the phrase ‘Good Communication Skills’ on a job advert, or it’s noted on your appraisal that you have them – what does it mean to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts…by the most appropriate way of course!

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