Have you felt as if you and a friend or significant other were speaking two different languages? It’s almost as if you two were from two different planets, trying to communicate two different messages on two different frequencies.
Or maybe you’ve given what you thought was a clear instruction to an employee only to realize they heard something completely different.
How about the time you’ve given a compliment only to realize that later on the person took it as an insult?
As a leader you should be able to wield expert communication in order to accomplish your intended purpose. You shouldn’t be flailing around trying to convey an important message. Your communication should be direct, crisp, concise and easy to understand.
Communication is iridescent. It’s your body language, your tone of voice, the way you dress, the way you walk, even the details of your facial expressions. All of these things influence the vibe your team members interpret from you.
As a union steward working in The Bronx, this meant communicating with a group of team members that were verbose and aggressive. A simple miscommunication could mean unintended conflict.
I had to be intentional with my communication.
Here are 3 actionable tips that will help you elevate your capacity to communicate your messages as intended.
Open Dialogue Politely
As a leader, you need to be able to read the room. Reading the room is characteristic of a larger skill, emotional intelligence.
When communicating with intent, you need to gauge the demographic and emotional state to tailor your opening remarks to fit the vibe of the team member(s) you want to communicate with. It’s similar to tuning a radio to the correct frequency.
But at the most basic, you need to be polite. It doesn’t matter if you’re their “superior” or not. Respect boundaries, gauge their emotional state and proceed accordingly.
If you notice that the team member seems to be a little out of sorts, open dialogue at a later time when they’re more receptive. The last thing you want to do is pile more on their plate than they can handle.
If it’s urgent and they look stressed out, empathize with them by hearing them out first then proceed with the intent of communication.
Engage In Active Listening
Time and time again you’ve heard: “People listen to respond instead of listening to understand.” At this point it’s a cliché go-to point about communication but it’s the truth.
When communicating with intent, understand that it’s a two way street. Active listening involves: listening with your ears, your body and your mouth.
Allow me to elaborate.
Listen With Your Ears
Listening with your ears entails no interjecting and no interruptions, whatsoever. Hear the member out all the way through without any interruptions in order for them to know they’re being heard. Letting your team members understand that you’re listening and open to two-way communication is essential.
Listen With Your Body
Listening with your body entails nodding, blinking and avoiding rude facial expressions when they say something you don’t like. Body language is a subtle way of intuitively connecting with your employees. The slightest positive confirmation can boost the quality of communication. Your body language can make the member more receptive to the message you’re trying to convey.
Listen With Your Mouth
Listening with your mouth simply means you paraphrase in order for them to clarify.
For example, you can say: “If I heard correctly, you said…” then follow it up with a paraphrase of their statement to clarify. Always wait either a few seconds after they’ve finished speaking or long enough for them to give you a cue to respond.
There’s one flaw with this mode of listening, though. Some people don’t like words being repeated back to them. Some find it to be a form of sarcasm or mockery.
I tried this form of actively listening with a supervisor who gave unclear instructions from time-to-time. He complained to the manager that I was being sarcastic and thought I was implying that he was incompetent.
Sometimes it’s best to ask if they mind if you paraphrase what they said.
Choose The Proper Mode Of Communication
I remember being laid off from the second job I’ve ever had through text message. It was on the morning I was scheduled to work, right before it was time for me to leave my house for my shift. I already knew the manager was a wimp but that confirmed it.
To make it worse, this clown had a co-worker bring my last pay check to my home. Til this day I don’t know why he didn’t mail it to me.
This is a prime example of how not to communicate with someone.
In order to communicate in a direct manner, always do it face-to-face. You can do it at lunch over a cup of coffee or simply in the conference room.
If you can’t communicate face-to-face, do it over the phone. It’s always best to communicate in such a way that will bring honor to the message itself. Your message can have the purest of intentions but if the mode of delivery isn’t up to par, it’s equivalent to a slap in the face.
Communicating face-to-face or over the phone allows for you to use active listening with various verbal cues. But you strip the person you’re communicating your message to of their dignity by using a stand-off form of communication.
Proper communication is hard but rewarding work when taken seriously. The reward is a positive work environment built on emotional intelligence.
But this takes a substantial amount of work in personal development. There has to be a high level of personal effort put into communication.
By deploying simple actions such as being polite, listening to understand, respecting the message and choosing our words wisely, we encourage direct communication with a clear understanding of one another.