Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which your message was interpreted in a way that surprised you? Did you receive unexpected backlash from your colleagues as a result?
This can be a humbling, unsettling experience that can leave you feeling unsure of yourself.
The good news is that it offers you a brilliant opportunity to hone your communications skills.
Like any skill, powerful communication takes practice, and it requires mindfulness or awareness of the situation you're in. There’s no one way to do it. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you, and vice versa. In fact, I see communication as less of a skill and more of an art form.
It’s your signature, an expression of you in the moment.
Whether you’re just starting out in a role that requires powerful communication, or you have been in a leadership role for a while, there is always room for improvement. Like learning any skill, improving your communication is a step-by-step process that requires you to:
If you’ve had an experience when your communication fell on deaf ears or landed with people the wrong way, try following the steps below to bring greater mindfulness and power to your communication.
Step One - Learn to Love Your Communication Style
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to communicate. Your style will work best for you when it is in alignment with who you are as a communicator. A way to determine your style is to understand and live by your values.
How does this work in practice?
I will use myself as an example. I am a coach, trainer and business owner. My career relies heavily on my communication skills.
My core values are integrity, wellbeing and leadership. I bring these values to my communication style. I do what I say I’m going to do, and I aim to make my communication clutter-free. I check in on the wellbeing of customers, partners and associates. I guide people to discover new ways of being that leave them with power and possibility.
Doing this repeatedly creates trust when people see that my communication style reflects my values. Test it out by asking yourself if you can see these values reflected in this article.
Step Two - Understand That People Listen Through Filters
People receive information through filters of understanding, filters they’ve created as a result of past experiences or learning. Some communication styles trigger past experiences that cause people to label you or your message in a certain way.
Can you be responsible for their filters? No, you can’t. Your message will be received and interpreted in ways you can’t always predict. It is, however, helpful that in a conflictual situation, you demonstrate a willingness to understand the other person’s viewpoint.
Making someone feel wrong for their way of seeing the world won’t help your cause. Being curious about their way of seeing things enables you, as a leader, to create a bridge that will foster greater understanding.
Step Three - Manage People’s Expectations
While you cannot be responsible for other people’s filters, you can be responsible for your own. Sharing your values and acknowledging how you communicate will help people understand you.
If you value integrity, for example, your commitment to integrity will have you hold yourself and others to account for their behaviour. This can be uncomfortable, but consider that what is even more uncomfortable is knowing that you have eroded your own value system for the sake of avoiding conflict.
By consistently being a stand for values like integrity, you give your colleagues the opportunity to meet your expectations. Knowing what to expect from you reduces the inclination for inaccurate interpretation and upset.
Step Four - Clarify Your Communications Objectives
Before you hit send on the team email or spend hours working on your presentation, know what result you want to deliver. Consider:
When you’ve identified your objectives, state them right at the beginning of your communication. Make the purpose of the exercise clear. Craft the piece to fulfil the outcomes you want to generate. Seek feedback to discover if your communication had the desired effect. Find out what you can do to accomplish your objectives with more power and purpose.
Step Five - Speak to Your Audience
Always know your audience and address their needs. Tailor your message to speak to your audiences's needs and concerns directly.
It can be tempting as a time-saving measure to send out the same email or deliver the same presentation to everyone concerned. Be warned. Irrelevant communication annoys people and negatively impacts you in the process.
When you take the time to demonstrate an understanding of your audiences’s concerns, they feel as though you are offering them real value without wasting their time. The fact is, you are delivering real value without wasting their time.
Building a perception of you as a partner who delivers value will work wonders for your future career potential.
Step Six - Check Your Language
It is a good idea to check your language, in particular the choice of words you use. Is your communication factual, or is it emotive? Is it hypothetical or is it practical?
In dealing with conflictual situations, avoid inflammatory words that fan the flames of intense emotions. Words that seek to soothe are useful, but ensure that you are communicating from a genuine desire to resolve the conflict. Otherwise, you can come across as manipulative. Asking questions that seek to understand and guide rather than interrogate is a good place to begin.
Step Seven - Deliver the Message Through Story
Storytelling is a buzzword in business circles because it is highly effective at illustrating a point. A good story gives your point life by making it real. This helps your audience to embrace the message.
A client expressed dissatisfaction with some honest feedback I provided about a video she created. It was a bone of contention until I shared a personal leadership development experience, during which I spent three months refining and rehearsing a presentation before I was given the go-ahead to deliver it.
Through the sharing of my story, she understood that trying to create the perfect video in one take was unrealistic and, in her words, ‘lazy.’ She was able to accept the need for rehearsing the script a few times before recording.
Believing great communicators deliver great communication off the cuff is a mistake a lot of people make. It’s not true! In fact, great communicators know the importance of mindfulness and practice. Being completely familiar with the flow of the material being communicated gives good communication the appearance of being seamless and natural.
The Benefit of Conflict
In accepting conflict as a natural part of life, you learn to treat conflict as an opportunity for understanding the people you deal with in more depth. The more you bring mindfulness to your understanding of yourself and the people around you, the better able you are to tailor your communications to have the desired outcome.
Being an effective communicator comes with practice. With practice comes confidence. With confidence comes experimentation. With experimentation comes authenticity. With authenticity comes clarity. With clarity comes a voice. With a voice comes influence. With influence comes inspiring leadership.
With inspiring leadership comes business brilliance.