Are you a good communicator?
My daughters are 14 and 12. One of the many lessons I have learned since their births is the art of communicating. Explaining why your daughter’s pet rabbit died unexpectedly takes some nifty footwork and forethought. As I have grown my own marketing firm over the past ten years, I have relied on this skill more and more, and continue to realize its importance. Having patience and building a connection with people are keys to so much in business today, even though we tend to move at hyper speed. Success is much more reliant on a combination of communication skills than simply talking. Communication is at the heart of every opportunity to build a relationship.
Have you ever found yourself putting words in other people’s mouths or finishing their sentences because they can’t find the right words? Having patience when communicating allows others the opportunity to share their thoughts, in their own words. This virtue improves your knowledge of the conversation and ensures that you fully understand the intent.
Shut up and listen
As any business owner or leader knows, listening is a foundational building block to success. Many times, opportunities present themselves when you take the time to listen. This is very true when communicating. If you always keep an open mind and focus on the discussion, doors inevitably open and relationships tend to grow. Besides, you can usually tell when someone isn’t listening and let’s face it, that’s very annoying!
This is straightforward, but don’t ask simple questions, probe. The answers to probing questions lend insight into the person(s) that you are trying to build a relationship with. For example, finding out that the person you are talking with has never watched Breaking Bad (me, but I’ve started watching and am currently in Season 2) allows you to carry the conversation beyond the normal, what do you do?
One trait of a good communicator is to never assume. However, you’re talking more about building a human connection. This is a fine line, between work and play, but we normally need to have a genuine trust or like with the person we do business with. Find the common ground. It might be sports, kids, a love of Disney or even a television show. This five minutes of small talk goes a long way into strengthening a relationship.
Look in the mirror
Pacing yourself with the person you are speaking with helps put that person at ease. I find it is helpful to follow their body language and match the speed of their words and the excitement in their voice. This tip can be used for conference calls, personal meetings or at networking events. Mirroring the person you are communicating with reduces barriers and leads to a more in-depth communication. It’s always easier to communicate with someone when you walk next to them rather than ahead or behind them.
When communicating via email, text or social media, review the content for spelling errors, sentence structure and flow before hitting the send button. Don’t let what you are trying to say get buried underneath poor grammar or bad spelling. The extra 30-seconds to review could remove confusion and, more importantly, keep the conversation going. If what you are sending is vital, have someone else read the content and take the time to ask yourself, what would I do if I received this information?
Successful communication encompasses a variety of skills beyond talking that require practice and the desire to improve. A good communicator knows it is not about them, but the person they are communicating with. Even with all the technology in the world, my girls remind me daily we need to talk with, not to or at someone. It is a connection that goes beyond the spoken word. After all, the whole intent of communicating is to build a relationship.