We’ve all seen it. At a team meeting or a conference, someone gets up to speak and people reach for their cell phones to check email, and another person gets up to speak and the room sits, completely captivated. There are those at work that everyone goes to for advice or just a listening ear, and those who never have a visitor to their desk. What is the difference?
There are communication qualities and skills that one uses to help ensure people will listen and be influenced to take action based on their words as well as skills that, when used, encourage people to open up to them and share more readily. Let’s take a look at 7 skills you can develop or improve to become a more influential communicator.
- Speak with authority.
There is a big difference between someone who uses language such as, “I think we might want to move in a different direction” and one who says. “We need to move in a different direction, and here’s why.” “I’m pretty sure the client said they were not happy” versus “The client was not happy, but here’s what we are proposing to do.” Speaking in strong statements and not using language of uncertainty will cause people to listen differently. This takes practice (and sometimes scripting out prior to a meeting) to feel comfortable using this more assertive language. It’s not to say you have to be demanding, but speak in actionable terms not “I think” “We might want to.” If you are unsure whether you are using weak language or assertive language, you can ask for feedback from a manager or trusted co-worker, or you can bring a digital recorder to a meeting to capture a few of your conversations and listen for yourself.
Another communication trait that will shut the ears of those around is the use of an up-tone. Someone who uses an up-tone in their voice seems to be asking a question, even when making statements. “I have an idea?” For some reason, this is most common in younger women. It is almost a “Valley-Girl” sound. It has no place at the office, or anywhere for that matter. Make your statements sound like statements. “I have an idea” “Here’s what I propose” “We can do X Y and then Z to get the project completed on time."
- Be a person of your word.
Trust will open the ears of people around you just like distrust shuts down channels of communication before you ever open your mouth. If you make a mistake or cannot follow through on something you committed to, admit it. Apologize for letting the other person or people down. This allows communication channels to remain open and for people to look forward to coming to you with ideas, challenges and successes. Being trustworthy is an indispensable aspect of good character.
- Speak up.
Share your thoughts and ideas more often. Being an expert in something does you no good if you don’t share what you have learned. When people know that you have experience, they typically want to hear it. They will listen to someone they know has expertise in an area they have questions or problems in. You can be perceived as an expert outside of your work environment by sharing on social media sites, writing white papers, speaking at conferences, and this carries into the workplace, allowing others to listen to your ideas with more authority.
- Be vulnerable.
Sharing only your success stories can make you appear arrogant, which can shut down communication with others. After all, who wants to share a mistake or a problem with someone who is perfect? On the other hand, sharing your failures and "lessons learned" shows a more vulnerable side and an honest side that creates a safe environment for others to open up and share their mistakes with you.
- Ask for (and listen to) the ideas of others.
By asking for and showing value for the ideas of those around you, you create a space that allows ideas to come forth and not be hidden out of fear or rejection. Make bad ideas just as good as good ideas. Ask questions and encourage the person to elaborate to get a full picture of their ideas before jumping in to offer your "better" idea. Mike Myatt in a Forbes article entitled, Why Some Leaders Need to Shut Up and Listen, said, "While some may be impressed with how well you speak, the right people will be impressed with how well you listen." These are words to hang your hat on!
- Take a listening posture.
Small children know that we are not listening if we are not looking at them. They will grab your face and make you look at them. Sadly at a certain age, we learn that the sides of heads is acceptable and in business, the backs of computers and in the glow of a mobile device we will have to speak. A wonderful skill to improve your professional relationships as well as those at home, is your ability to stop what you are doing and take a posture of good listening. This means to turn away from your devices and turn your body to face the person speaking. If you are on the phone with someone, turn yourself away from those things that will distract you.
- Be all there.
We know that just because someone is facing us, it does not guarantee they are listening, so fully listen for understanding. To prevent your mind from wandering or from formulating the response you want to give, make yourself listen for understanding. What is the other person’s point of view on this? Why are they worked up about this topic? Do not interrupt to correct or to finish the person’s sentences. Listen fully, until they are finished and then see if you have all the information correctly by paraphrasing. “Let me see if I understand you. You feel …. Is that correct?” When you accurately paraphrase someone, they immediately like you more, trust you more and love coming to you with their ideas.
Of these seven skills, which three, if focused on over the next 30 days, would bring about the greatest change in your ability to be a more influential communicator? We want to challenge you to choose three skills, talk with your team and family members about what you are working on (they will help hold you accountable). It is only in the application of these qualities that you will see positive changes. Reading them will not make you a better communicator. Share your 30-day challenge here or on our Facebook page. We will provide additional tips and tools to help you continue your quest to be a more influential leader.
If you’d like to find out what your influence potential is and more specific steps you can take to improve, consider taking the KII - Keller Influence Indicator® and read one of our other popular posts, How To Make Your Words Count.