Communication: So what you’re saying is …?

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona -- "Genuine leaders have the ability to articulate, initiate and follow-through on their vision."

~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote from King epitomizes the importance of developing our communication skills as leaders and managers.

As we get older, many of us get set in our ways and live by the phrase, "This is who I am." That mindset can easily stagnate our growth, because what we are selfishly telling others is, "Figure out what I am trying to say." What we should do instead is ask ourselves, "Am I clearly articulating my message?"

While studying political science in college, I ran across an instance that I consider the perfect example of the effects of miscommunication.

During an impromptu discussion with Saddam Hussein, a representative from the U.S. State Department gave a vague response. When he inquired into the U.S.'s potential response if actions were taken in the border dispute with Kuwait, that U.S. Ambassador told Saddam, "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait."

Although our intent was never to give the green light for Iraq to invade Kuwait, the ambiguity in our response definitely gave the impression we would not interfere. What happened next, of course, was the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces and the United States dominant military response of the first Gulf War. This is an extreme example, but the lessons learned are applicable across various leadership levels.

Think of any conflict you are currently experiencing and ask yourself these questions. Is the solution to the problem complicated? Have you truly looked at it from all aspects? Have you clearly made your expectations, requirements, desires or limitations known?

If you are able to be clear, concise and accountable then you are on your way to being an effective communicator. The next step is learning how to package your message for various audiences, but I'll save that for another time.

Life is a journey, and effective communication is its secret password to getting the things you want or need.