Last month I asked a question on LinkedIn: “What’s the single most important question you have about increasing your leadership?” I proposed a few answers and asked you to pick what you thought was most important. http://polls.linkedin.com/vote/141129/zakcq
The results are in and out of 211 responses, here are the results:
(Click the image to view larger online.)
As you can see communication seems to be a big concern for leaders so I’d like to talk about it in this newsletter edition.
What gets in the way of your communication? Do you believe that it is lack of skills and tools of the folks in the conversation? Could it be that people just don’t listen? Is it that most people are just opinionated and selfish? Is it that everyone has their own agenda and goals? What gets in the way?
Let’s start with what communication is. Well, the dictionary says that it means to give or impart thoughts, feelings and information. It comes from the root word of ‘common’. It originally meant to share. However, I think a lot of times, when we say communicate we want it to mean to “make people listen to and hear us”. What many fail to realize is that before we can share or give or impart, there must be a willing receiver… a connection.
Many people skip the very first step of communication which is a connection between the parties. Think about the telephone… when you have a good connection, the communication is clearer than when you have a poor connection. When you have static on the line, it disrupts the flow of the communication by disrupting the connection. If you have “no bars” on your cell phone then your connection is dropped and there is no connection or communication at all.
So, good communication first requires a good connection. Do you focus on making the connection BEFORE you communicate your message? “Connect” has a number of meanings:
• To establish a relationship
• To get in touch with
• To awaken meaningful emotions
• To establish rapport
• To reach a target (as in a punch, hit or blow)
Hopefully your connections aren’t always those of the latter nature. 😉
Good communicators (the senders) focus on the communicatee (the receiver; a real, live human being) not just the communication (what is being said). Let’s look at what gets in the way of making a connection. What are the different kinds of static?
- External noise and distractions
- Internal noise and distractions
- On the senders side
- On the receivers side
Most people have tools and practical experience on how to diminish and/or eliminate external distractions, so we’re going to focus on the internal distractions.
Often times your thoughts keep you focused in your world and not in the world of your communicatee. These are the thoughts that are running around in your head causing you not to pay attention, not to listen, and not to hear truly what the other person is saying. While the other person is still talking, do you ever get caught up thinking about what you are going to say next? While you’re in mid-sentence, do you ever have a “brain freeze” and forget where you are? This is typically happening because you are not controlling (or even aware of) your internal dialogue… it is controlling you. Because humans can think faster than we speak, write or type, we must learn to be aware of the thoughts that add static to our connections.
So, in order to share or impart, you must first CONNECT. In this newsletter, let’s look at the causes of interference on the receiver’s side. (Next time we’ll look from the sender’s side.)
To help you increase your awareness, here are some types of thoughts (internal dialogue) that can get in the way & some ideas on how to get around them.
So you’re listening to what another person is saying and you “hear” in your head:
1. “They are wrong.” “They are stupid.” “What an idiot.”
Respect THEIR view and model of the world. I didn’t say you had to agree with it. Respect it for what it is – another view of the world. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different from yours. If you are looking to connect, you need to know their points of view and their perspectives.
Many philosophers have said that you don’t actually experience reality but you internalize what you experience and match it to the maps that your brain already has in your head. Your brain naturally tries to recognize patterns and fit current experiences into its ‘buckets’. While this can be very useful, these ‘buckets’ can negatively impact a conversation because these thoughts can distort the information. They distract you from hearing and listening. They focus you on your own thoughts and your mental dialogue. So, you are unconsciously reacting to your internal dialogue of the communication and maybe not the actual communication at all. When this is occurring what are the chances that the static is causing you to miss something?
2. “I know.” “I don’t need to keep listening.”
Be curious and take risks. That may sound odd, but you must be genuinely curious about the other person. “I know” is the opposite of being curious. It is focused on you and your thinking. It is closing you off to the other people. You must use all of your senses to ‘see’ beyond their words and truly make a connection. Then, you must take risks. I truly believe that the greatest risks we take are not financial or physical. They involve being honest, direct, open, and unplanned in relating to and connecting with others. Your courage will be rewarded by deeper, more meaningful connections. So act and take a chance (yes, even at work). If it doesn’t go well apologize and learn from your missteps. Be real, genuine and authentic and your connections will occur more naturally.
3. “Ooh, ooh, I have something important to say (so I’m interrupting you).” “If I just say this…”
Understand your thinking habits. Your thinking habits control your unconscious communication. Studies have shown that 55% of the meaning of our communication is in our physiology, our body language; 38% is in our vocal tonality or how we say something; 7% is in the actual words that we say. How much time do you spend word-smithing? Yet, 93% of your communication, the meaning that you are conveying, is unconscious. Instead of learning new tips and techniques to consciously control or enhance your communication, wouldn’t it be better to focus on consciously changing your (subconscious) habits?
Here are a couple of tips:
- Look for goodness and uniqueness. Do you look for what is good about what the other person is saying? Do you try to hear what you are saying from their unique perspective? (Does your mind tell you that is too much work? 🙂 If so, throw that thought away! )
- Seek common ground. We like to communicate with people who are like us – even just a little bit. We build rapport by creating a trusting, safe, open exchange between the communicators.
These 2 bullets may seem contradictory, but they actually complement one another. I once heard that “great managers play checkers; great leaders play chess”.
What’s the difference? In checkers, all the pieces are the same and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. You need to plan and coordinate their movements, but they all move at the same pace, on parallel paths. In chess, each piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves. Great communicators are leaders and they know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their followers. They learn how best to integrate the uniqueness of other perspectives by seeking common ground and common goals. In order to do that, you must have control over YOUR own thinking and valuing habits… your internal dialogue. You must connect. That’s the first key to becoming a better communicator.
Do you know which of your thoughts are supporting you?
Do you know how best to use your supporting thoughts or natural strengths?
Would you like to find out?
I have dedicated my life to helping people think better. When you think better, you communicate better, you lead better, and you live better. You CAN change your internal dialogue and improve your subconscious habits. Our coaching programs offer you a great place to start.
Make a difference in someone’s life today…
by connecting BEFORE you communicate!