Being the person who gets their mails answered on priority, whose tasks get done with least follow-up, who is on top of their communication game & is able to be on top of your mind is not that hard to become. Such was Zen Parth, who reported to the head of sales and had joined just six months ago. He mingled with all of us in such an easy way that we never realized he was a new member until once pointed out by the HOD himself. It was that day we realized that he was the only person in the team whose mails were answered first; internally as well as externally. He was the one who would just call to greet and the other person would immediately be reminded of the task he committed to do for Zen. In the meetings all would wait for him to present his views, such was the charisma of his persona.
A study by Business Solutions shows only 16% of people felt satisfied with their communication outcomes. Over 60% never measured it in the hustle of everyday business where they often have to remind, reiterate & resend the messages for a particular business requirement.
I met him a few days ago in a conference; he is currently AVP in the same organization and still had the exuberance and the same charm. We along with few other speakers in the conference got talking about what was the secret of success and influence over others.
After an enriching discussion we reached the consensus of the top 3 most important techniques for effective communication and a Secret.
The 3 skills one should practice are:
1: Cohesion and Clarity in words.
Whether written or spoken, words do carry a certain charm. To be able to activate it we should learn when to use how many words. Quantity along with Quality matters. For any presentation distill your message to just 15 words. These words should hold the crux of your matter.
To make attention span your ally, create your messages with PAL: Purpose, Action & Limitation. Be well aware of the ‘Why’ of your message, whether spoken or written, if the message is formed keeping in mind the clear purpose behind it, it will always hit the mark. Ask yourself why am I writing (or speaking) to this person? What is that I want him to do or to stop from doing? This will enable a smooth intro or opening of the conversation.
A recent study conducted by Microsoft found that the average attention span is down to 8 seconds from 12 when it was originally measured in 2000.
Next, think about what Action should the person do or refrain from doing after receiving the message. For the ease of understanding & to assist the memory, list-down all the actionable. In case you are dealing with your subordinates do include the sub tasks as well for more clarity on the scope of work.
Now the limitation can be a limit of; Time- give the deadline; Budget- specify the amount; Personnel- mention the names; Material or Data- specify the inclusion or exclusions; Method- give the acceptable process or procedures.
2: The most difficult to practice yet the easiest skill is the art of Listening.
It is a sense created by almighty in default mode, we cannot switch it off until & unless we are powerful Yogis. It is a mindless activity and yet to achieve effectiveness in communication we need to be mindful of what we ‘hear’. Being in a rush to speak out what seems to be the obvious solution makes us miss out on more information that is vital for understanding the situation, as well as what is going in the mind of people in front of you. Their perception, values, sentiment, misunderstanding, fear, resentment or excitement can only reach you if they speak. And when they do, you begin to hear the real stuff, the things that none was actually saying and this is where the magic to listening lies.
So, how do you listen in a way that transforms conversations and relationships?
Here is a 3 step technique to develop good listening habits ARQ: Actually Listen, Repeat Back & Question
Just focus on what the other person is saying. Don’t think about what you are going to reply. You might get the real sentiment behind the message or may not get it instantly. In any case, move to the next step of repeating what you understood from the message. Here you clarify two things, your understanding and your reasoning of the message. The other person will either accept, deny or add-on here. Repeating often allows the other person to realize and amend the words and it often diffuses a conflicting situation.
It is very easy to say “Your proposed policy is not good for the department”. I would rather neutrally repeat it “You feel that the proposed policy is not good for the department”. Here, it is a soft confrontation and allows the person to specify the reasons behind his thoughts or to rethink the rationale of making such a statement.
Next ask questions why they feel so. What are the facts or logic behind it? At this moment you will get your objections which you can then use to convince them instead. Sometimes you get to hear things that are hard to hear, but remember that listening is not the same as agreeing. It turns out that sometimes, just listening is problem-solving.
3: Assertiveness holds the key to communication success.
Making your voice heard & convincing others are important for professional growth, but while doing this we must not sound pushy. In order to frame perfectly assertive statements use this 3 step method. ODE: Be Objective, Description & End
Be objective in stating what you would like to change in other person’s behavior. Keep the statement short, simple and unemotional so that the person does not get defensive immediately. For example, “You specifically ask other colleagues for ideas & not me”…
Describe the negative effect this behavior has on you explaining why it is a problem for you. For example, if the first part is “When you specifically ask other colleagues for ideas & not me,” you may add, “I don’t get a chance to share my thoughts or opinion.” In this way you are giving a cause & effect logic to how the said behavior causes negative impact on you.
End this sentence with a feeling statement indicating how this impact has hurt your feelings. “I feel unappreciated or undervalued” This may be surprising for the other person but will ensure that the behavior isn’t repeated.
These elements make the assertive message more powerful. The entire statement will be like: “When you specifically ask other colleagues for ideas & not me, I don’t get a chance to share my thoughts & opinion and feel unappreciated or undervalued”
And lastly the most important secret is to be appreciative of all people, their efforts and thoughts. When you genuinely bring appreciation as an integral part of your communication you break the barriers and create a smooth path ahead for any conversation.
- How to Really Listen by Peter Bregman
- A Simple Way to Be More Assertive (Without Being Pushy) by Andy Molinsky