This is not just being able to handle conversation, but the skill of being able to truly interact with people on an emotive and mutually rewarding level. Like poor grammar, you can get away with poor communication a few times, but if you’re a repeat offender, you won’t go very far as a leader.
In a post earlier this year, I described “emotional intelligence” as a leadership attribute that’s all about:
A. identifying and regulating the emotions within yourself and others, and
B. using that information to act towards a positive result for both parties.
Since the term was first coined in the early 1960s, emotional intelligence has emerged as a trait that’s shared by many leaders who communicate well.
So how do you become an emotionally intelligent communicator? Business guru, Peter Drucker maintained that it involves breaking through the “emotional glass ceiling.” This, being a natural resistance to changing identity. In plain English, this means overcoming one’s own foibles and making an authentic “connection” with someone. And by that, I don’t mean just asking people about their weekend. Of course, there is much more to this which can’t really be summarized in a post like this.
Like poor grammar, you can get away with poor communication a few times, but if you’re a repeat offender, you won’t go very far as a leader.
Improving one’s emotional intelligence may be considered the apex of communication enhancement. However, there are many other ways to improve. What follows is a list of basic fundamentals* that I provide to any client who’s having trouble in this regard.
Learn to Listen
Listening is not the same as hearing; learn to listen not only to the words being spoken but how they are being spoken and the non-verbal messages sent with them. Use the techniques of clarification and reflection to confirm what the other person has said and avoid any confusion. Try not to think about what to say next whilst listening; instead clear your mind and focus on the message being received. Your friends, colleagues and other acquaintances will appreciate good listening skills.
Watch Your Body Language
Interpersonal communication is much more than the explicit meaning of words or the message conveyed. It also includes implicit messages, whether intentional or not, which are expressed through non-verbal behaviors. In a nutshell, folded arms, fidgeting and lack of eye contact can sometimes send the wrong message.
Empathy is trying to see things from the point-of-view of others. When communicating with others, try not to be judgmental or biased by preconceived ideas or beliefs – instead view situations and responses from the other person’s perspective. Stay in tune with your own emotions to help enable you to understand the emotions of others. If appropriate, offer your personal viewpoint clearly and honestly to avoid confusion. Bear in mind that some subjects might be taboo or too emotionally stressful for others to discuss.
Offer words and actions of encouragement, as well as praise to others. Make other people feel welcome, wanted, valued and appreciated in your communications. If you let others know that they are valued, they are much more likely to give you their best. Try to ensure that everyone involved in an interaction or communication is included through effective body language and the use of open questions.
Laughing releases endorphins that can help relieve stress and anxiety; most people like to laugh and will feel drawn to somebody who can make them laugh. Don’t be afraid to be funny or clever, but do ensure your humour is appropriate to the situation. Use your sense of humour to break the ice, to lower barriers and gain the affection of others.
Treat People Equally
Always aim to communicate on an equal basis and avoid patronizing people. Do not talk about others behind their backs and try not to develop favorites: by treating people as your equal and also equal to each other you will build trust and respect. Check that people understand what you have said to avoid confusion and negative feelings. Encourage open and honest feedback from the receiver to ensure your message is understood.
Maintain a Positive Attitude and Smile
Few people want to be around someone who is frequently miserable. Do your best to be friendly, upbeat and positive with other people. Maintain a positive, cheerful attitude to life: when things do not go to plan, stay optimistic and learn from your mistakes. If you smile often and stay cheerful, people are more likely to respond positively to you.
Thanks for reading,
*© SkillsYouNeed (2015) Barriers to Effective Communication