The First Uncommon Step You Can Take to Improve Your Communication Skills
How many times have you heard that to be a good Leader you have to be a good communicator?
Leaders have always been labeled as ‘good communicators’. Individuals continuously transmitting messages.
For many great professionals who are taking a leadership or management role in their organizations, that can be intimidating, since Communication is not among one of their strongest competencies. They do not see themselves as ‘good communicators’ and, in many instances, even the thought of speaking in large groups is frightening.
The consequence of that: they limit themselves in publicly sharing their opinions and, when they have to do it, it looks so awkward and uncomfortable that they do not create the impact they wanted.
Communication has traditionally been related to as how effectively the message is transmitted and understood. Therefore, a good focus has always been assigned to how the person:
structure her message
use correct words, intonation, pace
adjust her body language
make natural eye contact and movements, or
connect emotionally with your audience
so, the message is received with all his ‘meaning’.
But there is one skill that has not traditionally been included among the ones we need to become ‘good communicators'.
That skill is Listening.
While speaking is often practiced and emphasized by many, the art of listening isn't one skill on which we find people spending much effort.
And here we have, leaders and managers are expected to speak; speak to share their ideas, messages, goals, expectations, rules, but also trying to provide motivation and encouragement to their employees…by mainly speaking.
But, by mainly speaking we also miss great opportunities to amplify our impact:
we miss critical information that is around us
we miss to connect deeply with our teams
we miss to engage and inspire others
we miss to make them feel respected and important
we miss conditions to ‘think deeper’ instead of jumping to conclusions too fast
we miss the opportunity to learn and grow ourselves.
If you are in the category of managers or leaders who think that, because of your role, you are responsible to hold most of the ‘talking’, you can make huge improvements by giving more space to ‘listening’.
How to Improve Your Listening Skills
Becoming an effective listener is not an obvious or easy task, but your listening can be improved by following just a few simple steps.
1. The first requirement to start listening is to stop talking.
Decide now that, no matter where you are today at, you are going to commit to yourself that you will speak 20% less starting tomorrow.
Without that commitment, you will not ever move from where you are, so no improvement will be made.
2. Give the other person your undivided attention.
Focus on what she says, how she says it, the words she uses, her body posture, her face expressions. Just observe and try to capture these details. Do not judge.
Your body language while listening plays a critical role, since you are communicating constantly with it. That undivided attention has to also be transmitted through the expression of your body, and
3. Be genuinely curious about the other person and the situation.
Curious about what she thinks, why she thinks what she thinks, what makes her a problem and why.
Based on that curiosity, ask questions that relate to the other person's statements. Questions you don’t know the answer, and she might not know the answer either, so she has to think. When she would answer, you will just listen.
Summarize often what you have heard to confirm what you have understood.
If you keep that practice, you will be well on your way to becoming a better listener, and, therefore, you will improve your Communication skills. But you have to practice.
Apply these ideas consciously every time you interact with a person or group, and you will become a better and more efficient listener. You cannot improve any skill without daily practice.