Effective communication is characterised by clarity, and is important because it is a prerequisite for fostering trust among a group of individuals, building relationships and enabling collaboration. Firstly, effective communication allows a group of individuals to foster trust between one another, because effective, clear communication creates a sense of transparency within a group. Such transparency, or the notion that everyone has ‘nothing to hide’, is instrumental in building trust between individuals. By extension, effective communication is also crucial to the building of relationships, on both professional and social levels.
Ideally, individuals should be able to share ideas, opinions, experiences and knowledge with each other and find common ground, or a basis for the relationship. Next, effective communication is required for effective collaboration. For instance, tasks should be delegated in a clear and unambiguous manner, while various team members should be able to communicate clearly what they are able or unable to accomplish. One experience where I truly learned the importance of effective communication was when I was juggling multiple commitments as a student volunteer committee member in two separate community service projects as part of my co-curricular activity in school.
I was a key appointment holder on the committee for one of them, a project that aimed to provide freelance job opportunities for lower-income families. However, I was also involved in a project that involved fundraising for, and volunteering at, a nursing home for the elderly as a team member. At one point, both projects were proceeding at full swing, and, as a student with academic commitments, I had to choose to commit more time and effort to one out of the two.
As a key appointment holder for the project for lower-income families, I chose to focus my efforts on that particular project. However, one thing that I did not do, and should have done, was to inform the committee members of the other project that I would be less able to commit to the regular volunteering sessions. As a result, many peers in the nursing home volunteer team began to view me in a negative light, with some even accusing me of shirking. This disagreement can be attributed to several reasons, and largely has to do with the management of expectations.
Firstly, the committee for the nursing home volunteering project was had likely expected me, along with other team members, to be present at every weekly volunteering session. As such, when I began missing some sessions to focus on my other project, team members understandably did not agree with my apparently sudden decision to absent myself from volunteering sessions. Another issue would be that many of the committee members were unaware that I was involved, and had a key appointment in, the committee of another concurrent project, due to my failure to inform them of such, and as such made the not-illogical assumption that I was shirking my work voluntarily. The last issue would be that even when I noticed that some members were dissatisfied with my apparent work ethic, I did not make the effort to clarify issues or ‘clear the air’. This led to resent or negative sentiments entrenching themselves.
This episode could have been averted if I had adopted several solutions, most of which pertain to communication. Firstly, when I was appointed as a key appointment holder in my other project, I could have taken active steps to notify the committee members of the nursing home volunteering project, such that they would be aware of other commitments that I may have at the moment. Further to this, I would have taken an additional step to manage expectations of committee members, by stating how often I could commit to regular volunteering sessions when workloads started building up for both projects concurrently.
Lastly, I could have sought concessions from the committee members of my main project, such that I was able to better balance my commitments between the two projects, rather than being intensely focused on just one. In conclusion, effective communication is an essential skill to possess in today’s world. Through my experiences, I have truly learnt the role of effective communication in management of expectations, and thus, conflict aversion.