“You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
– Steve Jobs
Successful communication is rarely a simple journey. There are so many potential detours in just a run of the mill communication between two individuals, let alone when you communicate to groups or teams that it’s easy for our message to get misheard or not heard or heard but not actioned.
One of the first hurdles to successful communication is the difference between our intent and the impact it has on others.
Our tone of voice, our choice of words, our body language… all of these things have a large impact on the listener and we can easily intent to communicate one thing while actually communicating another.
Such as the executive who listens intently because he values others opinions but his team read it as a scowl of disapproval and so they hold back their genuine thoughts.
The foundational skill of all communication is understanding and adapting to your audience.
Everyone is different. Every group is unique. What matters to that person is what matters to that person. Don’t just think ABOUT them try and think LIKE them. It often helps to simply ask upfront: ‘What’s important to you about X issue? What are your expectations about X?’ Make sure you understand the other person before you ask them to understand you.
SKILL 1: Be Prepared
The first skill is to prepare for any significant communication. This signals that you value the time of the other person and helps you to understand your own motivations for the communication.
- What do you want the other person to think, feel and do as a result of the interaction?
- What objections/ obstacles might there be?
- What are their current views of the subject?
Set some outcomes and commit to achieving them.
SKILL 2: Be Authentic
Showing up authentically means, once you have your outcomes you reach them through genuine dialogue rather than trying to artificially foist them on the other person or trying to ‘control’ the dialogue to the point where the other person is controlled rather than engaged.
Be prepared to state the things left unsaid and draw light on any hidden assumptions and encourage honest communication. Conversations can change lives, companies, destinies but only when they occur in the environment of truth and an unflinching dedication to the truth of a situation.
Keep an eye on the other person. HOW are they communicating? Are they congruent? If not, why not?
SKILL 3: Be Diligent
Whatever the outcome of your conversation: how will you know when you’ve reached it?
Confirm your understand and theirs. Ask great questions. Ask them to restate what you’ve said to make sure they understand it. Feed their own language back to them.
Search for the meaning of what they say. Even just asking ‘what do you mean? What does that mean to you?’ can help to get clarity.
SKILL 4: Be Simple
The best communication is simple, clear, plain. Keep industry jargon to a minimum. Be clear with your objective and, whatever the underlying data you are communicating, make sure the message is simple and crisp.
Be able to summarize the purpose of your communication in one sentence.
Be able to point out the logical road that either brought about your conclusion or the pathway you wish to take in the discussion in one sentence.
Keep to your main objective throughout the conversation and make sure that whatever conclusion is reached that its repeated at the very end to cement it in your mind and their mind.