If asked, “Who do you think of as an effective communicator,” whose name would you give?
Perhaps Mr. Rogers or Oprah Winfrey? Talk show hosts like Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon, or the hosts of Good Morning America? All are effective communicators.
What makes them effective communicators? This week we recap the key skills of effective communication, including the 5 steps to effective listening.
Where to Start
As discussed in the first of this three-part series, research reveals that many leaders fail at communication on two fronts: (1) making or having time for communication, and (2) taking a genuine interest in people (learning their names, their stories, their passions, etc.).
So, start by (1) taking control of your time. The studies are clear – the leader who is chasing and putting out fires is disconnected from their people and described as a “failed communicator.” Begin by learning to manage your time effectively so you can be available and present for your people. Then, (2) engage with your people. Try asking those around you this simple question, “What’s your story, Sally?” Learn their names, birthdays, and interests.
Master the Nonverbal Communication
Look at these photos of Oprah, Mr. Rogers, and Jimmy Fallon. Notice how open, approachable, calm, trustworthy, and engaged they are? Observe their mastery of each of the below nonverbal communication skills that convey this:
- Look people in the eyes
- Smile (vs straight faced or frowning)
- Lean in (vs leaning away from a person)
- Nod your head “yes” vs “no”
- Have good posture (vs slouching)
- Purposeful, calm, modest body movement
- Use open body language with visible hands (vs concealed, closed hands & arms)
As you master these skills you too will find that people connect with you, trust you, feel valued by you, engage with you, and look to you as a leader.
Effectively and Empathetically Listen
So, you’ve made time to be present and you engage with your people. Your body language conveys openness, trustworthiness, and willingness to engage. What then?
The next step then is to truly listen. Genuinely and empathetically listen. But, how do you empathetically listen? There are five steps taught by Becoming Your Best:
- Look the person in the eye
- Just listen (don’t worry or think about what you’ll say next)
- Pay attention to their body language
- Acknowledge them and what they’ve said (“Thank you for sharing that.”)
- Repeat back, check for understanding, or ask for more details:
- “Can you tell me a little more about …”
- “How do you mean?”
- “If I understand right, you feel that …” “So, you’re saying that …”
If you practice these steps. You’ll truly listen to people, and they will feel both heard and valued. They’ll also look to you for your listening ear and as a trusted leader.
What to Say
Make time for your people, engage with them, and master your body language towards genuinely and empathetically listening. Just listen, and confirm that you understand. This is the foundation to effective communication. You’ll build the relationship and connect first. Then, when the time is right, be honest and sincere, and you’ll find the right words.
Becoming Your Best
Wars have started from poor communication and wars have been avoided through effective communication. The same can be true in the wars–and peacemaking–of our professional and personal lives. You’ll find that when mastered, these skills lead to deep and meaningful relationships at work and outside of work. That’s becoming your best.
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus
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