Do you ever find yourself only paying attention to information that interests you? Do you ever interrupt someone who is speaking to you to make your own point? Perhaps you simply tune out people you don’t like or multi-task at your computer while only listening out of one ear when you have to communicate with these folks you don’t like.
As leaders, we can all do a better job of paying attention to those around us. If we stop speaking so much ourselves and really listen to what they are trying to say, we may not only produce better results together but also gain greater personal satisfaction and fulfillment from our work! To that end, the following key points will help you evaluate your own communications approaches and learn to communicate more effectively moving forward.
First, it’s critical to recognize the impact our non-verbal cues have on our communications beyond the spoken words we choose. According to early pioneering research conducted by Albert Mehrabian, our non-verbal communication equals as much as 93% of our total message. Yes, that means that only 7% of what you say is what you actually say! Fortunately, that study was conducted within the context of when our non-verbal cues don’t match our spoken words. Even still, contemporary studies still suggest our non-verbals represent roughly 2/3 of what we communicate, making our non-verbal cues nearly two times more important than our spoken words.
This means that our body language and tone are actually more important for delivering an effective message than saying the right thing. In other words, it is imperative for you to use good eye contact and listen non-judgmentally when speaking with others. This also means you’ll not only want to face your speaker but also lean into the conversation a bit to convey your interest in what is being said. In addition, you might ask who, what, when, where, why, and how questions to engage in the conversation and clarify the speaker’s main points by summarizing what you have heard.
These are all great strategies for communicating effectively in person, but what are you supposed to do when communicating electronically? If our non-verbals represent approximately 2/3 of our message, how will someone interpret your emails or txt messages which don’t provide any additional context beyond your written words? Much of our communication happens by email and iPhone these days, so consider the following scenario before you hit Send on that next message.
You just finished a client meeting away from the office and quickly scanned your emails before heading to your next appointment. You see a message from one of your employees and react so strongly that you respond in the moment, “nice job”. No caps, no punctuation, and no emojis. Just “nice job”. Does that really mean “NICE JOB!!! J”, or does it perhaps mean, “OMG! What were you thinking? L”? It’s impossible to read the positive reinforcement or extreme sarcasm in your body language or tone from that vague message, so be sure to evaluate your communications approaches with electronic communication too.
Whether it’s a quick txt to an individual employee or a more complete email to your whole team, digital communication in this regard is still one-directional. iPhones (and other smart phones) can be effective devices to direct your staff but not for leading them. More importantly, we are all predisposed to hear – and read – things in a certain way. If you don’t usually give your team positive feedback, how do you think they’ll interpret your message with no non-verbal cues? If you do usually give positive feedback, how might those interpretations change? Ultimately, we need to stop speaking and writing purely from our own natural styles and start listening from other people’s perspectives to hear what they are trying to tell us and drive better results with our teams.
Want some help evaluating your current communications and implementing some new techniques to improve them? Give us a call at 310.589.4610 or email us if we can support you in being more of a “listening leader”. You can also visit the Executive Coaching page of our website to see how we support busy executives like you in communicating more effectively to deliver superior business results.