One of the most crucial skills any leader needs to develop is their communication skills and their ability to motivate and inspire people through difficult times or to have really tough conversations without ruining the relationship in the long term.
For as long as I can remember, I have been bombarded with messages telling me that ‘communication’ is the key to success in business and in life. Getting married? Random strangers will think it’s totally fine to give you unsolicited advice. And it’s always something like ‘never go to bed angry’ or ‘communication is the key’. If communication is so vital then, why does nobody teach us how to be better communicators? As it turns out, communication is the key to creating the life you want – both at work and outside of the rat race.
Here are my tips on how to instantly be a better communicator:
Just like everyone has a different personality type, it’s important to know that there are 4 different types of communicators. Some are very data and fact driven, whilst others are more ‘big picture thinkers’. Some people communicate very meticulously and clearly, whereas others may jump around in their story. There are numerous free assessments that you can take online. These will help you figure out what type of communicator you are and will also help you to be able to recognize the other 3 types. Once you have this knowledge, it’s easier to adapt your communication style, depending on your audience and their preferences.
Assertive, not Aggressive
In addition to the styles of communication, there are also ways of communicating that range from passive, to assertive. Be mindful of not being too aggressive when communicating, even if you are frustrated and angry. It’s better to be assertive and be decisive around communicating your point, but do so in a way that is respectful and empathetic. Remember that everyone has a story they aren’t sharing and everyone has hurt that they are hiding. Nobody likes to feel like they are being verbally attacked.
The most damaging thing that we are all guilty of, is making assumptions instead of seeking clarity. It’s important to remember that humans filter absolutely everything through the lens of their own self-awareness, their worldview and emotional maturity. We see things not as they are, but as we are and this is a recipe for disaster. When we don’t actively seek to understand the intentions, motivations, and behaviors of others, we make assumptions – based on our own ‘issues’ – and we often cause unnecessary conflict or strained relationships that could have been avoided, had we just been brave enough to clarify with the other person
Ever noticed how important an agenda is for a meeting? Or how many meetings devolve into near chaos, regardless of an agenda? One of the main reasons for this, is that people are not clear on the ‘intention’ of the conversations they are having or what goal it is that they are seeking to achieve. So, before you have your next meeting with a colleague or you schedule a feedback session, get super clear on what exactly it is that you are seeking to achieve. What is the goal? What do you want to happen during and after the conversation? It’s a really good idea to plan the conversation and to ensure that you have done your homework on the person you are going to be meeting and don’t allow yourself to be tricked into deviating from the intended goal.
One of the biggest contributors to conflict and misunderstanding between people, is not necessarily what was said, but rather how it was said. Be mindful, therefore, not only of the tone of your voice, your body language and facial expressions. Pay attention to how you are actually ‘framing’ the subject and what message you are communicating. No matter what it is that you have to communicate, there is always a way to frame the conversation so that you make your point and get the desired outcome, without offending the recipient or audience. Once again, it’s important that you plan the conversation and you are clear about the intention and goal of your message. This crucial planning step gives you the opportunity.
The key to being a great communicator lies in our ability to be self-aware and to understand both our motivations and the motivations and fears of others. It requires that we are brave and bold enough to ask questions and seek clarity or to confront our own biases and unlearn some of the unhealthy behaviors and beliefs that we have built up over our lifetime. Another challenge for us – especially when we are emotionally invested in the outcome of a conversation – is to actively engage in seeking a solution with kindness, empathy and respect. So work with a coach, work with your friends, do some courses online and learn how to communicate better. It’s an investment in your future success at work and in your future happiness in life.