Do you communicate in a way that you know engages and influences others because of WHAT you have to say and HOW you say it? How do you know?
Nearly 85% of what you accomplish in your career and in your life will be determined by how well you can get your message across. Yep, your ability to communicate matters that much. It’s probably the most important skill to have – yet so many things get in the way. It’s easy to take short cuts to ‘get’ things done quickly and ‘get’ people to do things. As a result, we lose sight of the fact that powerful communication is about ‘giving’ rather than ‘getting’. Ultimately communication and leadership are linked by being present to the needs of others before our own.
I work with clients who tell me they are perceived as being too blunt. They justify their directive style because they are busy. They don’t realise that everything about them – their tone, style, body language, and behaviour – communicates that their priority is ‘their’ stuff. Self-awareness is the first step in being able to ‘give’ rather than to ‘get’ in communication.
Research has shown that nearly 99% of all of the issues that arise between people are caused by breakdowns in the communication process. Either people aren’t clear in what they mean, or someone doesn’t receive the message that’s intended.
So what’s going on? You might think you’re being very clear, but to someone else, your body language and tone is yelling a different story, or your rationale isn’t cutting through. We often don’t know our communication isn’t effective until things aren’t done, something goes wrong, or feelings flare up.
The good news is that effective communication is a learned skill.
Here are five ways to ensure your communication toolkit is powered up in a conversation:
1. Know how to listen
How often are you listening to you rather than the person who’s talking? Be honest – I catch myself out a lot. Remember to ‘tune in’ to the conversation – which means being present, giving someone your absolute focus and attention, and listening to understand, empathise and appreciate where they are coming from. Give someone validation – it’s a gift, even if you don’t agree with their position.
2. Know what someone’s motivational currency is
Know what’s going to engage and appeal to them from their perspective. Are they interested in being recognised, elevated, or to feel like they belong, or be made to feel needed, or to do the ‘right thing’? Everyone has a motivational currency. The key is to listen for it so you can give others what they’re looking for.
As Tony Robbins says “To effectively communicate, we must realise we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others”.
It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about starting from the place the other person is at and leading the conversation from there.
3. Keep it simple
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Albert Einstein
Keep your language simple, jargon-free and state the purpose for the conversation upfront. Give information that builds the story succinctly. It’s not about telling everything you know – it’s about giving others the opportunity to evaluate and choose from what’s most important.
4. Be aware of your body language
It’s generally agreed that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken. Given your body language speaks volumes, make sure what you say is supported by how you come across. You need to be consistent or others will read mixed messages and focus on why they should be confused.
5. Be patient
Patience means repeating yourself many times, saying the same message in different ways and reminding the team, for example: why they’re there; what they’re doing; and why it matters. It means giving others the chance to engage and step up.
Patience means doing this for your entire career.
Bringing it all together
Ultimately, communication makes everything happen. Learning to communicate effectively starts with the journey of self-development. It takes being intentional about leadership and valuing quality self-reflection. Everyone is different – the secret is engaging with others authentically and knowing how to read other people to adapt your communication style.