Effective Communication 101
You’re on your fourth Zoom call of the day and it’s not even lunchtime. The last 25 minutes of the call has arguably been grossly misspent (in terms of time and money) with half of the leadership team talking themselves in circles on a minor change to the product release process. As you attempt to wrangle some control over the situation you become acutely aware of the fact that your team has become a group of dysfunctional communicators. This wasn’t always the case, but in the midst of driving the growth of the business, the wheels came off in a few key areas and now you’re suffering from wasted time and resources, the byproducts of ineffective communication.
Now, the scenario doesn’t always play out this way and sometimes there isn’t even a clear impetus for a greater focus on effective communication. Regardless of the circumstances, communicating effectively is how good work gets done and successful businesses are built. But oftentimes, leaders and managers place more emphasis on what they are communicating, versus how they are communicating, engaging in surface-level listening, and ignoring feedback and signs from their team. Herein lie the opportunities to further build your people skills, but let’s take a few steps back.
What are the Main Components of Communication?
The four main components of communication include the verbal dimension, nonverbal dimension, active listening, and active observance. The importance of effective communication has skyrocketed with the shift to remote work and the removal of (the majority of) in-person business interactions. While the main components are unchanged, the need to view communication from a virtual lens has become critical.
What does the tone of your voice sound like? Does it reflect confidence? Strength? Perhaps your tone reflects fear? Confusion?
When we speak, others “read” our voices, in addition to listening to our words. As a leader, you truly set the tone – with not only what you say, but how you say it. Within the verbal dimension of communication there are several ways you can subtly enhance how you deliver a message, including:
- Varying your pitch – Pitch is the relative highness or lowness of a tone as perceived by the ear. When it comes to communicating effectively, your pitch conveys (or assigns) meaning to specific words or groups of words. You can use pitch to draw attention to words or phrases that are more important than others.
- Moderating your volume – The tone of your voice projects images in your audience’s mind. If I were to describe a beautiful butterfly with deep purple wings gliding on a Spring breeze but do so with a monotone voice, would the vibrancy of the image in your mind be bold or dull? Varying your tonality or volume is not only a way to keep your audience engaged but also sends clear signals about how you feel about the message you’re delivering.
- Placing emphasis on key words – When you selectively emphasize words, the sound of a message changes. This sends a signal to your audience that says “Hey! Look at me!” Emphasis can be caused by slowing your pronunciation of a word, stretching a vowel sound, adding body language, or even repeating a certain word. Understanding what you want your audience to pay attention to is key to where they assign meaning to your message.
- Displaying genuine enthusiasm – The ability to feel and express enthusiasm can take you from being ordinary and forgettable and transform you into a compelling and memorable communicator. However, genuine enthusiasm requires preparation and energy. Enthusiasm doesn’t mean you have to wave your arms emphatically or be dramatic – true enthusiasm comes from being engaged in your topic and confident in your knowledge and message. This type of enthusiasm only comes from within you and in your unique and authentic way.
When we interact with others, we continuously give and receive countless wordless signals. All of our nonverbal behaviors—the gestures we make, the way we sit, how fast or how loud we talk, how much eye contact we make—are key components of communication. The nonverbal signals you send either produce a sense of interest, trust, and desire for connection—or they generate disinterest, distrust, and confusion.
A person’s face, especially their eyes, creates the most obvious and immediate cues that lead to the formation of impressions. Eye contact is a major aspect of facial communication and serves a variety of purposes. It regulates conversations, shows interest or involvement, and establishes a connection with others.
As a leader, you must be conscious of your nonverbal cues and the strong messages they send. Both your verbal and nonverbal cues are good indicators to your team of whether or not you believe in the message you’re delivering. Additionally, these two dimensions inform your team whether you’re actively or passively listening.
Active listening requires focus and your undivided attention.
Do you sometimes “rehearse” in your mind what you were going to say next, instead of really listening to what the person was saying? For many, listening is synonymous with preparing to speak. Others listen with their eyes, but their mind is somewhere else. When our listening is more like waiting than attuning, we don’t connect with the other person and what they are saying.
Active Listening is receiving information from one or more speakers while remaining neutral and acknowledging the speaker(s) in a way that encourages them to continue. Effective communicators might say we should listen twice as much as we speak. When we’re actively listening, we are taking in information – not only what is being said, but how it is being said – tone, body language, facial cues – you’re consciously observing.
When was the last time you paused in the midst of delivering a message and simply observed the reactions and responses of your audience?
Observation is defined as the act or process of viewing something or someone in order to gain information. For leaders, being able to observe and gather information about their team is important because it’s the basis of communicating well. As we’ve learned, oftentimes words don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes what conveys enthusiasm, agreement, confusion, or distress more effectively is body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. So, when you’re delivering an important message to your team what are the signs, signals, inputs you observe? How do you know your message is being received and understood?
How does Peoplelogic Elevate help leaders hone their communication skills?
As we highlighted earlier, when it comes to communication and building people skills, just as the world of work has evolved, so have the expectations of leaders. You need a new approach to developing leadership skills and capabilities.
Peoplelogic Elevate supports leaders in honing their communication skills by offering bite-sized learning bursts for quick skill development as well as learning journeys that dig deeper into key concepts and offer opportunities for applied learning. We believe learning is most valuable when it’s engaging, thought provoking, and provides an opportunity to translate knowledge into action. We created Peoplelogic Elevate for all of the growth-minded individuals who embrace developing themselves and carving their own unique path to leadership – however that journey unfolds. Get started with Peoplelogic Elevate today.
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