Introduction to being a good communicator
Being a good communicator is an essential skill. Keeping your communications short, clear and on the right channel (e.g. face-to-face, email, text) can help keep you physically safe and mentally well. It can also make your day-to-day work less stressful.
Why good communications matter
When you’re out on the road, you want information. That includes information from your family, such as how everyone is and when you’ll be back.
That way, you’ll know what’s happening. Whether you’re in the boss’s or wife’s good books, how the business is going and so on.
That peace of mind makes it easier to stay focused on driving without being distracted by worries or hanging questions.
From a management perspective, Alastair Clay, General Manager at regional NSW carrier Milawa Transport (Miltrans), says “communication with the team is everything.”
He says that when he looks at what makes a driver, a job or a company succeed or fail, “communication is always going to be a contributing factor, if not the major factor.”
Here are five tips for communicating better.
Communication is a two-way process
That means you have to be a good listener as well as a good talker if you want to get your message across.
If the boss is talking, but you’re not listening, then you’re not communicating. If you’re trying to explain a situation but a co-worker is distracted, then you’re not communicating.
“I think we could all be better listeners,” says Alastair. “We just have to make things open and transparent.” This means taking time to hear what’s being said and consider it before jumping in to start talking back.
Confirm your message
It’s also good to make sure the other person has understood what you’re saying: “both parties have an obligation to verify the communication,” Alastair says.
That might mean checking that they’ve read your email or have recorded an incident report correctly.
If you’re unsure, it might even mean asking them to confirm they’ve received and understood your message. A good way to do this is by asking if they have any questions.
Use the right channel
Some messages or conversations need to be face-to-face so that you can get body language and other feedback from the other person (see below). Others can be a quick email or text message – especially where the message is time-sensitive.
Alastair, like many managers, prefers face-to-face conversations, whether one-on-one or at Toolbox meetings; hence attending these is really important for drivers.
When you’re on the road, we know face-to-face opportunities are limited; so if it’s important, ask your manager to wait to see you post-shift.
If there’s a lot of detail and you want to get it right, then an email (that you can spend some time on) might be a better option. Choosing the right channel will help get your message across in the way you want.
Don’t ignore body language and tone
If you’re shouting ‘I AM CALM!’ at someone, they’re not likely to believe you.
“About 70 per cent of communication is body language,” says Alastair. “Tone of voice is about the next 20 per cent, and your words are about 10 per cent.
Researchers agree that your words are the smallest part of how you communicate. So, it’s essential to pay attention when you’re talking to someone. Listen to their tone as well as their words, and watch their body language.
Context is critical
As well as all the above, be aware of time and a place, and try to pick the right one for yours.
If that means waiting till you’re back in the depot so you can talk face-to-face, then so be it. Or if it means that a fast response by text message is the way to go, then do that.
Keeping these tips in mind will help other people understand where you’re coming from and what you’re on about.
For Alastair, it’s even simpler than that: “The better the communicator you are, the more money you earn.”
- This article has been developed as part of NTI’s The Business of Safety series with the aim of helping transport and logistics businesses become safer and more sustainable. The Business of Safety is funded by the NHVR’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, supported by the Australian Government. Information in this document is a guide only. It does not take into account your personal or business circumstances. Whilst all due care has been taken, you must not rely on the information as an alternative to legal, legislated regulatory and compliance requirements associated with your business activities. NTI.M002.28.22102021