“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.“
— Theodore Roosevelt
Any business person worth their salt knows that maintaining honest, trusting relationships with your clients and customers can lead to extra sales and career advancement.
But what about relationships with staff? Human nature seems to dictate that communication and relationships are not always plain sailing, especially for the boss. Life can be frustrating for leaders trying to build good relationships and achieve results at the same time.
How often do we take time out to explore and develop how to improve our interactions with others? It stands to reason that if our interactions become more constructive our relationships will improve as a result. The way to the place of honest, congruent, empathic communication, real negotiation, influence and relationship might not be learnt overnight, but it’s certainly a journey worth embarking on.
It might seem a little humiliating to have to admit that our communication with those we are trying to lead is not bearing as much fruit as we’d hoped. It’s a great place to be though, as from this point, the only way is up! It’s about moving towards a place of awareness. Awareness brings choice, choice brings confidence and confidence brings whatever else we need.
We communicate all day, whether we’re sending emails or meeting face to face. The better and more effectively we communicate with those around us, the richer our relationships will be. Here are a few areas to consider if you are interested in becoming a professional communicator…
- Firstly, we must consider how we come across. There is, very often, a gap between the way we see ourselves and how others actually experience us!
The impact of our communication, surprisingly, does not only come from our words. Psychological research suggests that a massive 55% comes from how we look (body language, facial expression etc.) 38% from how we sound, and only 7% comes from what we actually say.
That’s not to say that what you say isn’t important – of course it is! You won’t hold someone’s attention for long if you’re talking nonsense, no matter how good you look or how engaging your tone of voice.
But the real point here is congruence: what you say must be in harmony with how you say it, or else you’ll give over a very confusing message. So what the research really shows is that if you say something happy but in a sad voice and looking miserable, we tend to believe how you sound and look rather than what you’re actually saying.
Try this out for yourself in front of the mirror. Think of something happy like,
“I can’t wait to start my new job”
… and say it in a dull voice, looking glum or expressionless.
What message is actually communicated?
Communication occurs when someone understands you, not just when you speak. One of the biggest dangers with communication is that we can work on the assumption that the other person has understood the message we are trying to get across. After all, if you’ve used all the right words, then that’s job done – isn’t it?
- Secondly, we must consider how we listen. Listen effectively. (That means no multi-tasking when listening with texting or other related smart phone activity).
Listening is a crucial skill in boosting another person’s self-esteem, making people feel supported and valued. Listening and understanding what others communicate to us is the most important part of successful interaction. Active listening requires that we fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. Moreover, it’s essential that the other person feels listened to, because this will play a huge part in forming their lasting impression and memory of us. As part of active or reflective listening we restate or paraphrase our understanding of their message and reflect it back to the sender for verification; in so doing we show that we are genuinely interested in understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, wanting, or what the message means, and we are active in checking our understanding before we respond. This helps us get to the emotional subtext of what is being said, and allows us to turn information into intelligence that we can actually use. As a result, when our colleagues offer different opinions from our own, we are better able to take the time to listen to them and consider what they have to say, and then, if appropriate, factor their insights into our decision-making.
Good listening is devoting time, energy, and effort to building relationships with others.
- Thirdly, we must consider trust.
When you trust your team and colleagues, you form a powerful bond that helps you to work and communicate more effectively. If you trust the people you work with, you can be open and honest in your thoughts and actions, and you don’t have to waste time and energy “watching your back.” Poor communication in the workplace erodes trust as it can lead to a culture of back stabbing and blame, which, in turn, can affect stress levels. Conversely, great communication can have a positive effect on morale when it works well and motivates individuals to want to come into work and do a great job. Also, without trust, it’s really hard to give and take feedback, which, although it may not always taste great, can be very good for any organisation.
Anyone learning to become a professional communicator will (by definition) cease operating at an amateur level and develop the ability to lead with congruence, authority, and gravitas.