I always enjoy facilitating a session on communication. Communication is always, always a source of trouble and always, always a fun problem to attack with a willing audience. This week I taught two sessions on communication and here are the tips that my participants most enjoyed discussing.
- Non-verbal communication is infinitely powerful. We definitely underestimate the impact of visuals. Throughout the sessions I am able to repeatedly demonstrate ways that non-verbal communication influences behavior. Leaders need to watch what they do as much as what they say!
- Active listening requires practice. We really have to focus to receive the complete message. Even though we know how to do it – and we know that we often don’t put forth enough effort to really listen – it is a skill that is lacking. It important to use active listening not only when someone is speaking to you – but also when you are speaking to someone else. Watch their non-verbal’s for clues that they are receiving your message – or not.
- Redundant communication can be effective when it is deliberate. People have different styles – communicating through different modes delivers the same message to different people in different ways. If your message needs to motivate someone to do something, it’s always best to start face-to-face.
- Planning your delivery is essential when the message is important. We know that different people have different styles. Some people want you to be black and white, brief and to the point. Others want a little small talk first; they want a story – with examples! You will be more successful if you take in to account the preferences of your audience before you jump in.
- Heard, understood, and properly evaluated – these are the three responsibilities we have as communicators. When delivering a message it is your responsibility to make sure your receiver heard your message – understood it correctly – and properly evaluated its meaning. If you leave without checking, there is a lot of room for misunderstanding.
- Rephrasing is a critical skill for leaders in two ways. The first is to use the skill to make sure you understand messages. If you listen as if you have to repeat back every word, rephrasing will be easy. The second is to use the skill to make sure your employees understand messages. Make it a habit to ask them to summarize instructions you just gave!
With all the different tools we have for communicating, one might think this will get easier. The fact is, it will never be easy. The best advice for improving communication is this. Remember that each person has responsibility for effectively communicating their message – and that includes making sure the message is properly understood.