Communication is so ingrained in our day-to-day that we often don’t even think about our communication style. Unless you’re asking for regular feedback, chances are you may never notice if your communication style is lacking. If it’s something you haven’t given much thought to, you should definitely start thinking about! Communication skills may be the one thing holding you back.
Whether you’re interacting with employees, clients, or customers, how you connect with them via email, phone, or in person is going to define their feelings and trust towards you. We all know how important relationship building is – so think twice about how you communicate.
Do a quick 'Communication Check-up' and rethink your communication style. It can help you get laser focused on this year’s goals so you can really kill it in 2017. Here are some places to start:
Reply to emails in their entirety
It’s easy to shoot off an email as you walk to Starbucks or sneak in a quick email when you’re out with friends, but email communication should be treated as seriously as any other form of communication. Don’t open an email until you have time to actually read it and reply thoughtfully. We all know its super annoying to get a response to one out of two questions from someone via email, so don’t do that to your contacts! If you don’t have time to read it, leave it closed! If you don’t have time to respond, mark it as unread.
Also, read your responses before you send them. Check for how you might be coming across, tighten up your sentences, check for grammatical errors, and do your due diligence. Shooting off an email and coming across as tense or half interested may hurt your relationships. Same goes for lengthy emails that lose track of the message.
Put the phone away
When you’re having meetings or in person conversations, keep the phone off the table. Everyone is so used to people being on their phones, it’s so refreshing to be in the presence of someone who has no phone in sight. This tactic is simple and powerful. It keeps you focused on the conversation and makes the other person feel important. Win-win. The next meeting you go to, pay attention to how you feel when someone keeps checking their phone. Doesn't feel good let me tell ya!
Respond to a thought or story before jumping into your own
Repeating pieces of a thought or story back to someone shows them that you’re listening and engaged. When we’re in conversations, it’s so easy to get lost in thought preparing your next response. Take time to really show that you’ve been listening by using a connecting phrase. Listen to understand, not to reply.
Here are some examples:
· “That’s a really interesting thought! I had never thought of it that way. I’m wondering what you think about ….”
· “Wow, I can’t believe you had that experience. That’s really unique…”
· “You have a really good point.”
Simple flattery goes a long way and it creates stronger relationships because you’re making people’s opinions, thoughts, and stories feel valued.
Leave space for others to talk
One of the most valuable pieces of advice I’ve ever read was in Dale Carnegie’s book, 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' where he talks about how people feel closer and more connected to you when they do most of the talking. Doesn’t that seem backwards? So often, we feel like if we share more, people will feel closer with us. But, that’s not the case. Think about it: When you let someone else open up, they feel vulnerable and therefore connected to you. Who doesn’t love a good listener!?
Get better at asking open ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no, or one word) and practice being comfortable with letting others lead the way in the conversation. It can be difficult since we all love sharing stories, but practice makes perfect!
Give others praise
It’s so easy to forget to thank people and tell them what a good job they’ve done, but the power of praise shouldn’t be overlooked. Even if you’re dealing with a customer, thanking them for their time or patience is a simple and easy way to make them feel valued.
This rule speaks true especially for your employees. Showering them with praise and making them feel appreciated will in turn make them more loyal and more willing to go the extra mile for you.
In an age where people are so over stimulated with content, texting, social media, and busy work days, acing your conversation skills when it counts will set you apart from the rest. All good leaders are great conversationalists, so it’s worth doing some research and brushing up your skills.
A friend of mine, Gloria Pierre wrote a great book called 'ABC For The Workplace'. The book mentions 3 benefits of being a better communicator:
Effective communication skills allow you to understand the mindset of others and grasp the situation easily. They help you get desired results even in an unfamiliar situation
You build friendships and influence people by talking, listening and being genuinely curious
You know how to disagree without being disagreeable