These 8 strategies will help you to overcome the communication problems that tend to interfere with your ability to communicate with clarity, impact and influence with everyone you encounter, especially those you know well. If you employ these communication options your communication skills will greatly improve and you will experience more win/win outcomes.
- Speak so that people will listen. Effective communicators read their audience (groups and individuals) with care and attention to ensure they aren’t wasting their time offering a message that the audience isn’t ready to hear. Talking so others will listen means you adjust your message to suit your audience. Going on and on thinking you’ve said what you wanted to say will not have the desired effect on people, rather try to engage them in a meaningful dialogue that invites an exchange of ideas. Try resisting the urge to drive home your point at any cost.
- Address groups as individuals. Leaders often speak to groups of people. Whether it is a small team meeting or a full company event, you must engender a level of intimacy in your approach that makes each person in the room think that you are speaking directly to him or her. The trick here is to eliminate the distraction of the crowd so that you can focus your message as if you were speaking to a single person. You should attempt to be emotionally authentic and exude the feelings, energy, and attention you would in a one-on-one conversation so that you can let go of the anxiety that can come with public speaking. The ability achieve this is the hallmark sign of effective leadership communication.
- Listen so people are able to talk. One of the most troublesome habits is when a leader treats communication as a one-way street. Instead, when communicating, you must should give people ample opportunity to offer their opinions. Hearing is an ability, listening is an art and involves your ears, your eyes, your heart and your mind. So it is important to pay attention not just to the words being said, but also to the tone and volume of the voice, the look on a person’s face, their gestures, and their stance.
That is how you will pick up on the “hidden” or non-verbal messages which are more subtle, however often at least as meaningful. When someone is talking to you, it is best to truly focus and listen fully until they have finished speaking. Try to remove distractions, find a quiet place and turn off your phone. Simply showing respect and interest in truly listening will allow you to notice the other cues the person sends, and make it clear that you are actually there to listen fully.
- Relate on an emotional level. Maya Angelou said it best: “People will forget what you said and did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” As a leader, your communication is not going to be effective if people don’t connect with it on an emotional level. This may be difficult for many leaders to accomplish because they may feel uncomfortable showing their vulnerability. However, to actually connect with your team members on an emotional level, you will need to be authentic and honest. Showing them your “softer side”, what drives you, and what you truly care about, lets them know you are human, too.
- Take note of body language. Your authority can make it difficult for people to speak their minds. No matter how good the relationship is with your subordinates, you are kidding yourself if you think they are as honest with you as they are with their peers. Therefore, you must become adept at reading and heeding the unspoken messages being sent. The greatest wealth of information lies in the body language accompanying the verbal message so it is essential to pay attention to this part of the messaging. This is the way you will gather much more information and learn more about your team members then they will actually “tell” you.
- Prepare your message so that the intent is clear. Preparation is the key to making sure that the message received will be the one intended. Don’t prepare a “speech”; instead, develop a clear understanding of what the focus of the exchange must be and then figure out how you will achieve your intention. Clear impactful and influential communication is the best means of delivering the message you are trying to get across to your team.
Avoid jargon. The business world is filled with jargon and metaphors that are often not pertinent or even understandable by many people. Overuse of such jargon can alienate your subordinates and customers rather than help to inform them. It is best to use such language sparingly if you really wish to connect sincerely with your team and your customers.
- Practice Active Listening. Active listening is the most important communication skill as it helps us to reduce conflict, confusion, resentment, disappointment and complaining. This simple technique ensures that the person with whom you are communicating will actually feel respectfully listened to.
In order to employ active listening:
• Spend more time listening, less time talking.
• Let the person know that you really want to hear what they have to say.
• Avoid finishing other people’s sentences.
• Focus on the other person openly and sincerely
• Do not interrupt the speaker, let them finish what they wish to tell you.
• Summarize what you have heard to let them know that you both heard and understood them.
• Keep an open mind while they are speaking
• Ask plenty of questions for clarity.
- Combining all the strategies.
As you practice these communication approaches, try to take it one step at a time. Using one, two or three strategies at a time is a good way to begin. If you try to change more than you can handle at once, you will find it hard to progress as quickly and you may become frustrated. It is better to narrow your focus and as you become proficient in each skill you can develop the next one, and so on. Communication is a dynamic and essential element of leadership excellence and the more you employ those skills the more effective you will be as a leader.