Communication in a business starts at the top and works its way down through every employee.
Skip Weisman, a leadership and workplace communication expert, says there are three overarching levels of high-performance leadership communication: self-communication, one-on-one communication, and public/group communication.
To excel in each of these areas, Weisman says successful communicators have mastered the following seven skills:
1. Communicating with specificity
Effective communication is purposeful and provides context to the other party — and that requires being specific.
“If you’ve ever left a conversation thinking ‘that person must think I’m a mind reader,’ then you’ve been a victim of a lack of specificity,” Weisman says.
One way to fix this, he suggests, is avoiding lazy phrases such as “as soon as possible.” These phrases are often used “because we don’t want to be held accountable, and we want wiggle room.”
2. Communicating desirable behaviours
Starting in childhood, most of us are constantly being told what not to do, Weisman says. “Parents rarely follow that up by explaining the alternative desirable behaviour.”
Successful communicators don’t make a habit of telling others what they don’t want done. Instead, they emphasise the positive things they want to highlight and develop.
3. Communicating with immediacy, urgency, and promptness
Mastering the skill of promptness can be challenging, since procrastinating and delaying difficult conversations at work is a huge problem. Weisman goes so far as to call it an “epidemic.”
A general guideline is to engage in a discussion over a certain incident within 48 hours of it taking place, Weisman says. If this isn’t possible, it’s important to at least notify the other party that a conversation should occur.
4. Communicating with respectful rebuttals
Debating can be good for business if it’s done properly.
The tricky part is making debates respectful and productive, Weisman says.
“Communicating with disrespectful rebuttals is a very common communication habit and extremely, extremely hard to break,” Weisman says.
So how exactly do you break it? The answer is largely word choice, and the keyword is “and.”
Words like “but” and “however” set the other person up for negative feedback and essentially shut down their opinion. “And” is a much more inviting and less confrontational word, Weisman says.
So the next time you find yourself in a debate at work, you might try saying, “I like what you’ve done, and we could add…” rather than “Good idea, but I think…”
5. Communicating with appropriate tone and body language
This works hand-in-hand with positive self-communication, which is the constant internal dialogue we have and is reflected in our attitude.
Having emotional mastery means you’re in control of your thoughts. It also drives your ability to project the image you want to others through your tone and body language, according to Weisman.
6. Communicating with focused attention
Weisman says this is more of a decision than a skill. It boils down to deciding that the other party and their views are important enough to listen to, Weisman says.
Communicating with focused attention can be tied to body language, since making eye contact and controlling your body positioning shows you’re providing your undivided attention, Weisman says.
It’s always our choice to focus, and “we have the opportunity to make that decision every time we’re in front of someone communicating with us.”
7. Communicating with directness and candor
“Tell it like it is,” Weisman says. Of course, the challenge comes in doing it respectfully.
The key to maintaining candor while being respectful is leaving blame, emotions, and opinions out of the conversation, he says. Instead, stick to observable behaviours and hard facts.
Mastering this skill is vital because it’s “the best way to build high-trust relationships necessary to create personal, professional, and organizational success,” says Weisman.
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