Being a great communicator is vital for business and personal success. It’s also a key component of leadership and the ability to inspire others to follow your vision. Your leadership communication style will dictate how others perceive you and your business, so it’s important that you tailor it to meet your needs.
We’re never really taught how to communicate well. In school, English lessons are usually about good grammar and spelling, but never how to inspire and connect through the words we use. And as we grow up, this can be a major problem.
Most of the greatest leaders in history were amazing communicators and would probably never have had the same impact without these skills. Gifted orators like Martin Luther King Junior and Nelson Mandela stand out for their ability to galvanize the people behind their cause with just a few words.
How are you communicating with others? And what can these leaders teach you about better communication?
Learn to listen
Learning to listen comes first because although it’s an integral part of communication, it also seems to be a dying art. And yet it can teach you so much. By listening to people rather than waiting for your chance to talk you will make them feel valued and heard. You will also learn more about them and their business. This will help you to tailor your response and encourage a deeper sense of connection.
But the ability to listen will benefit your business more directly as well. Listening to your employees and their concerns will help you to create a more supportive workplace that rewards achievement and development. And these types of workplaces tend to be the most productive and the happiest places to work.
Learn about your audience
Whether you’re speaking to a group or a single person, learn about them before and during the conversation. If the event or meeting is planned, this gives you a chance to look them up and learn something about them that you can relate to. This will help you to quickly form a connection and have a more interesting conversation.
During face to face conversations, be curious about the other person’s life. Ask questions, listen to the answers and remember important details. This is one of the best ways to build a relationship that will benefit both of you.
Be honest (but not too)
Authenticity is a popular word in these days of fake advertisements and celebrity culture. It’s powerful when someone steps out of those trends and is honest, even when it doesn’t make them look great. It encourages honest connection and trust. In business, and in your personal life, this is what communication is all about.
However, if you try to fake authenticity it will probably do more harm than good. Studies show that people are naturally attuned to body language and shifts that indicate lying or deceit. That’s why they often unconsciously sense when others are being inauthentic and become uncomfortable. Do not try to fake authenticity unless you want to drive people away from you.
As a final tip, being honest doesn’t mean that you need to spill all the news about your latest relationship failures at a business meeting. Be professional in your interactions for work, and save the relationship talk for friends.
Study and use body language to communicate
It’s not enough to just say the right things, you need to act the right way as well. Only about 20% of what we communicate to others is verbal, and the rest comes from our body language. This means that you need to make sure that your body language fits with the words you’re saying.
To be a great leader you need to learn body language techniques that convey warmth and authenticity through your posture, gestures and facial expressions (link to body language article). This is a skill that every great leader has understood and applied to the way they interact with others.
The world is full of people and all of them are different. They have different views, different backgrounds, and different ways of approaching problems. If you want to connect with them, you need to be open-minded. Even if you disagree with them, try to see things from their point of view. This will teach you empathy and stop you from judging without really understanding. Being arrogant and constantly convinced that you’re right is not a good way to connect with anyone you’d want to work with.
Work to connect
Whether you’re communicating for business, or for personal reasons, work to connect with people rather than sell them a product or push your business. This means building trust between you by showing trust and by being willing to slow down and let the relationship build naturally.
People want connection more than anything else these days, even in the business world. As Maya Angelou said:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
The number one thing you can take away from this
Communication is something we do naturally and yet we’re never really taught how to do it well. That’s unfortunate because it’s a key component of our business and overall life success. Learn where your communication skills are letting you down and create some habits that will help you overcome these difficulties.