Communicating effectively is one of the most influential skills you can develop. Your ability to connect and build relationships with others is going to be a major key in creating successful opportunities for yourself. The quicker you develop these skills, the quicker you will see an impact.
Very early in my career, I was leading a group of student leaders who were having a hard time. We were hearing constant complaints, seeing a drop in performance, and seeing more discontent. I wrote everything I was either observing or had heard through various ways on a white board and stared at it for a while, begging that the answer would magically be written there. Since magic whiteboards weren’t in the budget, that never happened. But after closer examination, I saw three themes develop. This team wasn’t having fun, they weren’t communicating, and they didn’t feel appreciated for the work they were doing.
I then began working on addressing these concerns, but I realized that if these three elements were focused on in simple interactions, better relationships would be formed. When you communicate, if you have fun, communicate well, and show appreciation you will see a difference in the outcomes of your interactions. Here’s how:
Having fun in an interaction is all about being yourself. If you are outgoing and energetic, be that. If you are calm and collected, then be that. When starting a new interaction, people quickly judge the intentions of the other individual. They ask, “what does this person want from me?”. Helps prevent walls from going up by being positive, friendly, and warm in both the words you say and your body language. Smile. Ask them how they are. If you have communicated with this individual before, ask something about what you previously talked about. Asking something like “how did that test go?” can really impact a person because you showed you were listening last time you talked. Here are a few other ways to start your interactions positively:
- Smile. Just look friendly and eager to communicate.
- Get them to laugh or agree. When appropriate, make a funny comment about something both of you would have seen or experienced. If you start the interaction with an opportunity for them to agree with you, it starts to open them up for what you will communicate with them.
- Show you are excited to talk with them. Don’t worry if you aren’t someone who is bouncing off walls 100mph all the time. Be yourself, but show that you want to be here with them.
Obviously, any interaction will only be as successful as the ability to communicate the goal. Communication is all about perspective. Take a minute to understand that the same passion you have for your goals and desires, they have for theirs. Take time to understand what their objective is. Most of the time you actually have common goals, but you are communicating how you want to achieve them differently. Always take a second to check for understanding. Stop. Ask, “So what you’re saying is… Is that right?”. Show you aren’t just there to get what you need and leave. Help them, and you’ll find that by helping them you are helping yourself. Try this:
- Consciously try to get the other person to talk more than you. Ask questions or request more information about that.
- Make your goal to understand their point of view. The old phrase is still as true as ever, “Seek to understand, not to be understood.” It will never be helpful for you to go bark orders and leave.
- Never expect people to come to you, go to them. If they don’t understand something, go to their level of understanding and then work your way back. Never put them down or make them seem unsafe for not being “at your level” yet.
This is where most good communicators stop. They are great at developing a first impression, and clearly communicating, but then off they go. Great communicators take one more minute to show appreciation. This is an easy step but is not used by most. Those who do it see lasting results that save time and energy later. After an interaction, show appreciation for the moment and the other person. Remember this, the more you thank people for the things they do, the more good things people do to have you thank them for. Try these:
- After class, go up to your teacher and tell them, ‘thank you’ for today’s class.
- After your Advisor takes you to a leadership conference or other development opportunity, thank them for making it possible for you to be there.
- Even if you couldn’t agree with someone, or they weren’t able to help you, thank them for their time. You may need them again, and by showing gratitude they will be more inclined to help.
Building strong relationships is vital to your success, but it comes with practice. Start implementing these three elements of effective communication, and you will start to see a difference. Share your questions and thoughts below! How do you try to have fun, communicate, or appreciate in the interactions you have?