4 PILLARS OF COMMUNICATION LEADERS (AND ANYONE ELSE) NEED TO SUCCEED
The first thing we do at birth, after taking our first breath, is communicate? That first cry is essentially an expression of being. Breathing is a natural and involuntary act, whilst communicating is our very first willed act!
Our options for communicating are initially very limited: crying expressing discomfort or discontent, silence suggesting comfort or contentment and later smiling or giggling to express joy.
As our verbal and non-verbal communication options develop we have more and more need to communicate. We communicate to satisfy basic physical needs, like hunger or thirst, but we also increasingly desire to communicate other needs such as preference, acceptance, dislike, rejection and the most difficult of all – emotions.
Given that communicating is the very first voluntary act that we perform and that it is the primary way of communicating our being, isn’t it strange that we find too many people who aren’t very good at it?
The reasons for this inaptitude towards the foundation of being are many, but primarily the ability is seen as so “natural” that, apart from language training, very few people really focus on how to do it right!
We are apparently expected to work it out for ourselves by taking cognizance of many, many factors such as good manners, cultural and age differences, religious differences, etc. If we are bold enough, have the time and wanted to improve our communication skills, proposed techniques are often so complicated (technical) or diverse (often contradictory) that we tend to give up on them at some point and settle for the status quo.
My submission is that we should use the simple yet proven principles taught to people communicating in arguably the most difficult of circumstances, suicide negotiators, which principles are summarized by the acronym: EAR.
The acronym is quite easy to remember, because apart from speaking, the very basis of communication is listening, actively listening, and therefor EAR is perfectly applicable.
This acronym divides into three pillars:
To empathize simply means to put one’s self in someone else’s shoes. This pillar should oscillate between speaker and listener. When speaking you need to empathize with the listener and when listening you need to empathize with the speaker in order to understand and respond effectively. Failure to apply this first pillar will ensure that you hardly ever communicate productively, period.
The pillar of empathy already paves the way for acceptance and acceptance reinforces empathy. Because every person is unique, when communicating you absolutely have to accept that the other person probably differs from you in some or other way. These differences can be minimal or extreme and can vary from gender, persuasion, orientation, religion and culture through to personality differences, not to mention either of the persons communicating being mischievous or just insisting on being stubborn.
Despite our apparent inability to express ourselves effectively, by way of verbal communication, we often have the ability to sense falsity by interpreting various signals borne out by body language together with verbal expression, especially tone and word choice?
It is an undisputable fact that this ability is heightened in stressful situations where several of the subject’s senses are hyped and consequently the communicator needs to be real or lose any and all credibility immediately on being caught out.
So, I have referred to four pillars and highlighted three?
The fourth pillar is a technique rather than a principle, reflection. With this technique we are not only able remove or delay any personal pressure to provide input in any conversation, but to indirectly suggest to the subject person that we understand, that we are on the same page, which is especially important in emotionally charged communication. Isn’t it so much easier communicating with someone who, at least, appears to be on the same proverbial page?
Reflection merely means mirroring the person whom you are speaking with or attempting to speak to. It is especially useful when speaking with someone you don’t know, someone who is emotionally charged or someone reluctant to communicate for some or other reason.
It essentially entails allowing this person to initially direct the conversation by mirroring their expressions (verbal and physical) that you are able to collect and interpret, thus allowing them to expand until you have enough information at your disposal to contribute to a constructive conversation by applying the other three principles.
As a leader, whether in business, some institution or your own home, there are many external pressures that you bear and many expectations that you are required to fulfil on a daily basis and it often seems that you simply don’t have the time to hone basic skills, like communication?
You don’t have the time to do an online course spanning several weeks or to read a book several hundred pages long, to get lost in terminology and definitions only to realize that the proposed solution just doesn’t work for you?
These four principles are simple to remember, easy to practice and on seeing the results you will want to practice them increasingly. You will be surprised how quickly they become part of your “communications repertoire”, increasingly requiring little to no intentional recall to apply. You will also be amazed at the response from your audience(s) whether they be colleagues, superiors, subordinates, friends or family.
You will suddenly be seen to be someone who always and actually does understand and always responds in a fitting and constructive manner, albeit corrective, a capability that we all should appreciate and aspire to?
Furthermore it will add to the wholeness of your being: serving to check unnecessary outbursts, making it easier to initiate and curtail what could be a heated discussion or argument and thus contributing not only to receiving respect and the approval from others, but contributing to an increase of your own self-esteem!
Given that communication is the second most basic and important expression of being, after breathing, and the positive influence that improved communication skills can have on us personally and those that we necessarily come into contact with every day, shouldn’t we all focus on improving that skill, especially if it is really quite simple to achieve?
Get your copy now for a more complete discussion of these principles with some practical examples here.