Leadership is described in the dictionary as the action of leading a group of people or an organization. There are different leadership styles and each style has its pros and cons. For instance, the authoritarian leadership style is necessary if you have a life and death situation like a war while a relationship-oriented leader works best when schedules have to be met and there are specific tasks to be completed. All leadership styles have one thing in common: to be successful, a leader has to know how to communicate effectively. And that’s not an easy task, not at all.
Effective communication: Speak clearly
A fascinating study by a team from Princeton proved that brain cells “mind meld” if the conversation or speech is intense. Mind meld, is a term used to describe a telepathic link between two people. In the context of effective communication, it would refer to being able to hold the attention of the recipients of your message to the point of being understood and processed accurately. You want a connection that goes beyond eye contact. You want your message understand properly.
This Princeton study looked at a neurochemical known as oxytocin which is produced when a person is shown a kind act or feels unthreatened. They tested ways to hack into the oxytocin system to encourage motivation and cooperation and what they discovered was that human interest stories told by a speaker that is character-driven can cause oxytocin levels to increase. For instance, if I narrate an inspirational story about victims of a hurricane or tragedy, I can increase donations in a fundraiser if I am able to tell the story effectively with just the right amount of drama and emotional content.
The key elements to increasing oxytocin include:
- Sustaining the attention of the listeners
- Developing tension while narrating the story
- And being able to share the characters’ emotions, feelings, and behaviors that will lead to a belief that something better is possible; that being involved and invested is the right thing to do
If you want to be a more effective communicator whether for business or personal growth, it helps if you add depth to your message. For example, one of the most memorable and historical speeches is “I have a dream” by Dr. Martin Luther King. He spoke of his dream but he also inspired millions while effectively communicating a merge of political, social, and even biblical thoughts about a free and equal nation. His speech rocked the world and is the epitome of effective communications.
And your potential to become an effective communicator and great leader is further enhanced if you can understand and accept that communications is more than just speaking. It’s also about listening.
Effective communication: Listen actively
“You’re not listening to me!” How often do we hear that from employees, colleagues, partners, children, and business associates?
Effective communication is listening to the verbal and nonverbal responses from the people you are talking to. You can have the most amazing, powerful speech ever written but it will mean nothing to the people you are speaking to unless you know how to accept what they are saying back to you. The feedback can be more than words. It can come in the form of a nod, a clap, a facial expression, or the manner the person is standing or sitting.
One of the most powerful quotes on communications comes from author Steven Covey who once said, [tweetthis]“Seek to understand rather than be understood.”[/tweetthis] He was referring to emphatic listening which means getting into the frame of reference of the other person to or simply put, listening with your heart and eyes. Many people tend to listen perfunctorily – pretending to be listening when in reality, they are just waiting to speak. Effective communication and true leadership starts with seeing the totality of the person in front of you. You will get more done in 5 minutes with this kind of communications strategy.
Be genuine when you listen; be caring and open-minded to the thoughts of the person/people you are communicating with. You won’t believe the amount of time and effort (including drama) that can be avoided when you practice emphatic listening. Practice it at home and be amazed at its results. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work right away. This takes time to perfect and a ton of patience since we all don’t think at the same pace.
If you want to discover more about how to master your listening skills, get a copy of my book ‘Are you listening or just waiting to speak?’
Continue to part 2 and discover easy strategies to become more effective in your communication.