Highly effective leaders are skilled communicators. Most people assume that communicating is about speaking. Not true. Rule # 1: Excellent communication skills start with listening, THEN devolve to speaking. Only by listening first do we earn the trust of the person we’re talking with. Only by listening first do we earn the right to be heard. Only by listening first do we have the ability to speak to the other person’s interests, to their listening. Listening is the first characteristic of a skilled communicator.
When I was about 6, I was somewhat of a chatterbox. My grandfather, a gentle soul, asked me, “How many ears do you have?” A bit puzzled, I answered “Two.” “How many mouths do you have?” (Even more puzzled) “One.” “Do you think the good Lord had a reason for giving you 2 ears and 1 mouth?” (Oh.)
You’ve heard the expression, “Dance like nobody’s watching.” I suggest, “Listen as if the person is going to tell you the most important thing in the world.” Most of the time the topics will indeed be mundane. But there will be gold nuggets. AND, the speaker will feel truly honored, creating a relationship for future conversations.
Secondly, a skilled communicator continually looks for feedback from the listener – do they understand it? Do they agree? A skilled communicator also pauses while talking, to allow the listener to digest what has been said and to formulate a response. The difference between introverts and extroverts can be striking in this regard. An extrovert does not know what they are thinking until they say it, so they tend to talk quickly and volubly. An introvert needs time to process what they have heard so they can formulate a response. They are equally intelligent – they just need processing time.
Third, a skilled communicator uses persuasion rather than power and position. Didn’t you hate it when your parents or a teacher or coach or drill sergeant said “Do it because I said so”? Aristotle said that to communicate effectively, one can appeal to:
· Ethos – who we are,
· Pathos – emotions, and
· Logos – logic
Ethos is the most powerful. Effective speakers try to identify with their listeners, and have their listeners identify with them. Presidential candidates try to identify with the man in the street, or the soccer mom. Finally, whoever tells the stories defines the culture; they combine ethos and pathos. Look at advertisements – most of them tell stories (with pictures, words, and music), rather than merely citing facts and figures. They use the stories to persuade, and then add facts and figures so the potential customer can logically justify the decision they made.
Coming next: Compassionate Collaborator