Good leaders take communication seriously. They appreciate that good communication skills are not only among the most critical of soft skills. They are vital for promoting productive relations with team members and for effective negotiating.
It’s astonishing how damaging bad verbal habits can be. For example – with the over-use of ‘sorry’. You can say ‘sorry for the delay', or you could substitute it for ‘thank you for your patience’ – making you come across much more positively.
Another example of a small change that can make a big difference is, instead of responding to a colleague’s point with ‘but’, try using ‘and’, which invites further conversation.
Here are a few other suggestions. They might not always work, but when used appropriately, they can help to make your efforts at clear communication more effective.
‘This is what I can do for you’
Imagine you’re asked to perform a task or a favour that you just don’t feel able to carry out. You could reply with ‘I can’t’, followed by an excuse or reason. But instead, what if you were to respond with, ‘Here’s what I can do for you.’ That way, you’ve set a boundary with your client or colleague about what you’re not able or willing to do, but you’ve also appeared helpful by saying that you’re willing to find a workable solution.
‘I’ll find out’
When you don’t know something, it’s generally a good idea to say so instead of bluffing. However, if you’re in a leadership position or dealing with customers, the people asking are going to want more than that from you. Instead of just dodging the enquiry, say ‘I’ll find out for you’, and then, of course, make sure you do … and quickly!
‘Can you . . .’
Have you noticed we often tend to preface a favour request with “I know how busy you are . . .” or “I hate to bother you . . .”. The problem with this approach is that we instantly put ourselves at a disadvantage because we’re assuming that we’re creating a burden. Far better to assume there’s no problem and simply ask for what we need. The other person will surely let you know if they can’t oblige and will respectfully decline.
I’m glad you like it
For some people, dismissing praise is a knee-jerk response. Knowing how to gracefully accept a compliment can, for some of us, be more difficult than accepting criticism. Responses such as ‘It was nothing‘ or ‘It could be better’, where we make light of our work, abilities and achievements, make us come across as insecure and unconfident. Worse than that, we’re being disrespectful of the person who gave the compliment. Much better to smile and say, ‘thank you, I’m glad you like it’.
‘I want to help’
Telling someone to ‘relax’ or ‘calm down’, as well as being patronising in the extreme, is almost guaranteed to have the opposite effect. Far better, when a colleague is upset to validate the individual’s feelings and reassure them that you understand. Perhaps like this – ‘I can see you’re upset, and I really want to help’.
‘I’m happy I could help’
When someone thanks us, it’s normal etiquette to reply with something like, ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘not at all’. But isn’t it much more powerful if we respond with something like, ‘I’m happy I was able to help you’? This leaves a positive impression with the other party that you made a real effort to help them.
It’s all a question of being more thoughtful and precise with our use of words. These subtle adjustments in the way we communicate won’t solve every communication issue. However, by being more precise and action-oriented in our language, we’re much more likely to come across in a more positive light.
For more on the value of effective communication in the workplace, get in touch.
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