Ps & Qs Education

Keeping it real

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I have previously discussed changes in the world of work, and how the only healthy solution is to perhaps toughen up, unlearn, learn, adapt and flourish. It is in this context that I have been reading up on predictions and trends for ‘communicating in 2025’. Many of these studies emerged before this year and probably didn’t factor in the pandemic and how it is likely to revolutionise not just communications, but management styles, leadership, organisational behaviours and more. In that sense, predictions are limited in scope, as they seem to miss what is unpredictable.

Yet, pandemic or not, one thing most studies seem to highlight is the need to adopt authentic communication styles, which, in my view, becomes all the more relevant as we prepare to succeed in post-pandemic realities. We inhabit a world that needs to quickly recover from this year’s crisis. Let us look at how authenticity can help in recovery and success.

Must-have skills

Transparent, reliable, unscripted — these are words being used frequently these days in the context of communication. Seen as hallmarks of authentic communication, these characteristics are often highlighted as must-have skills, especially for global leaders, and even those aspiring to take up senior positions. Authenticity attracts trust; while trust leads to cooperation, collaboration and an empathetic work environment. Only such an environment can help an organisation in its road to recovery. Only individuals who adapt an ‘authentic mindset’ can create and communicate genuinely.

Gone are the days when communicating was just about impressive public speaking or story telling. In authentic communication, we present things transparently — as they are, to the extent possible. Authentic communicators prefer facts to exaggeration, data to rhetoric. And if there is not enough data, that is communicated too. But how do we do this? It is not easy to be transparent and vulnerable. It is not comfortable to say, “I don’t know” if there are no answers. How do we establish connect and demonstrate empathy in such a situation?

Communicating naturally, spontaneously, and in a personalised manner could bring in the humane element to ensure that authentic communication doesn’t come across as blunt or insensitive. Using personal pronouns such as “we”, “us”, “I”, “you”, “your”, and so on, along with a friendly, approachable tone will help to a great extent. Maintaining the right mix of facts, spontaneity and unscripted words would be key.

Easier said than done. It takes time and effort to consciously develop such a style of communication, just as it takes time to earn the trust of those we work with. Most companies, especially in the technology sector, seem to be gearing up to permanently work out of remote offices in the years to come. In such virtual environments, where one is deprived of the advantages of a convivial, physical office, communicating authentically could become more difficult than before. What makes it more challenging is the fact that more than 50% of our communication is non-verbal.

At the same time, nothing is unattainable or impossible, if we have the will to adapt. The first step towards authentic communication would to observe our own current styles of speaking or writing. The next step would be to observe the authentic communicators we may work with. Finally, it would be down to implementing small changes, taking small steps towards authenticity. Authentic communicators can not only contribute to an open work culture, but also lay the foundation for authentic organisations.

The writer is an author and literary journalist. She also heads Corporate Communications at UST Global. Views expressed are personal. Twitter: @anupamaraju

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 9:04:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/adopting-authentic-communication-styles-is-becoming-increasingly-relevant/article33149353.ece

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