Communication is often as hard as it is necessary for any team or organization to reach success. It’s hard because people are different, bringing their own unique perspectives and communication styles to the table.
Some people are assertive, others are aggressive, while several are more passive when it comes to their communication style. Passive-aggressive is quite possibly the most challenging style to coexist with, especially at work.
Great leaders are often the best communicators.
Bad communicators are rarely great leaders.
So, what makes a great communicator a great communicator?
Regardless of the communication style, the best communicators have one goal in mind every time they embark on the windy road of communication, whether verbally, with email or written notes, their gestures, body language, tone of voice, and even with their actions, in meetings or one-on-one.
The best communicators aim for understanding—this is where leadership comes into play.
Great leaders realize the importance of staying attuned to feelings, thoughts, and perspectives of those around them—peers, employees, and even their own leaders.
Spending time and seeking to understand, in any situation, magically transforms:
- Heated arguments into conversations
- Mere acquaintances into meaningful relationships
- Bad days into better days
How often is the person sitting across the table from us—whether at the dinner table or a meeting in the conference room—on a completely different page than we are?
We receive emails or phone calls from people making their points, sharing their opinions, and often drawing lines in the sand. Co-workers, bosses, friends, or even the people we care about or love the most often share their opinions. Sometimes we agree, but sometimes we don’t.
Too often, we miss understandings; and when we do, we miss out on the very magic understanding creates.
Misunderstandings cause arguments and hurt feelings, which leads to failed relationships.
The irony is that if we want to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us at home or work, we can’t miss understandings.
ENGAGE: When leaders ask questions to learn more about why the person across the table feels the way they do, they begin to engage in fruitful conversation, which leads to understanding.
EMPATHIZE: As leaders, when we find it in our hearts to empathize with them and whatever may be going on in their own life—possible heartbreak, stress, or fear—we understand their situation. All of a sudden, we begin to show them compassion rather than our frustration, and our compassion leads us to new realms of understanding. The more they feel we understand, the more they will seek to understand the what, how, and why of our messages, expectations, and requests. The more they understand, the more urgent they become in progressing the team forward.
LISTEN: It’s simply impossible to fully understand others’ perspectives, thoughts, and feelings unless or until we lean in and listen. Really listening means focusing and making eye-contact (as opposed to peering down at our social media feeds, laptop screen, or playing Candy Crush) while the other person is talking. Listening is the ultimate sign of respect, and respect is often the very thing which makes great leaders so attractive. We’re more likely to work harder, devote more passion, and execute with purpose when we know our leader respects us.
As leaders, the more we meet people where they are, genuinely interested in their thoughts, expertise, and opinions, disappointing frustrations turn into opportunities to make a positive impact.
We gain a better understanding of the situation and how we can collaborate and reach a mutually beneficial outcome together.
Great leaders are great communicators.
Great communicators don’t miss understanding when it comes to their communication efforts.
Understanding is the goal of any type of communication. Without understanding, it’s just a bunch of people talking, which rarely motivates anyone to do anything.
Therefore, it’s impossible to become a great leader without becoming a great communicator.