Most organisations have a leader or two who ‘pull rank’ and issue commands. “Have this on my desk by 5”, “We’re doing it this way now because I said so,” “This is your responsibility now.” They lack empathy, relatability and compassion. How do you and your colleagues perceive these leaders?
Effective communication is paramount to influential leadership, particularly in healthcare where it’s a fundamental to every component of your role, yet it’s a skill many have yet to master. In a world full of noise and people clamoring to be heard, the first challenge is speaking so you can be distinguished in a crowd. The second is speaking in such a way that your message resonates with the listener and they are compelled to follow through.
In his 2013 TED talk, Julian Treasure, sound expert, broke down the 7 deadly sins of speaking that will push your audience away: gossip, judging, negativity, complaining, excuses, exaggeration and dogmatism.
There are, however, changes you can make to be heard and resonate with your listener, be it in a one-on-one setting or in your next board meeting.
- Speak from your chest
The majority of us speak from our throats but only a meagre few have realised the impact of speaking from their chests. Studies have shown we tend to trust people with deeper voices and often assume they are more senior than they perhaps are. We perceive, albeit subconsciously, voice pitch as being an indicator of dominance. Stand tall, open your airway and feel the space you’ve created. Now use it to powerfully project your voice with depth and clarity.
Prosody is the stress and intonation in language. It’s the way your tone raises in incredulity. It’s the sharp quip when someone has overstepped a boundary. It’s the way our words are drawn out when speaking sarcastically.
It’s hard to engage with someone who speaks in a monotone and, without it, messages can be misconstrued. That’s why misunderstandings via text or email are more common, because the rhythm and tone of our speech is missing. Inflect stress on the words you want to resonate with your listener and slow your speech when delivering the message you want them to take away.
- Practice silence
We are inclined to fill the silence in conversations to avoid awkward pauses or make the other person feel uncomfortable. Yet, it’s a valuable tool for acquiring information in scenarios such as interviews or meetings as your conversation partner is compelled to continue talking. A well-timed pause can also allow someone time to ponder an important point or impress upon someone the severity of a situation.
- Know your audience
You know there are different styles of communication, but how often do you adapt yours to suit your audience? In the workplace there are four styles of communication: the analytical communicator appreciates numbers, percentages and has little time for flowery imagery; the personal communicator enjoys connecting with other people, small talk and tend to be optimistic about what they or their colleagues are capable of; the functional communicator loves a thought-out, meticulous plan; and the intuitive communicator wants to hear the overarching strategy and what you’re trying to achieve.
How do you know which group your listener falls into?
- Listen first, speak later
We all have a unique set of filters and experiences which shape the sounds we hear into the messages our minds receive. We all listen differently. What is crucial is that before we expect to be heard, let alone influence, we need to understand the mindset of the people we’re trying to communicate with.
Pay close attention to what they aren’t saying verbally. Be mindful of defensive clues like crossed arms or the person placing objects in front of them. The direction of their feet can indicate whether or not they’re really listening. A person truly engaged with you will unconsciously mimic your actions. Test this theory by tilting your head slightly during conversation and see if your partner does the same.
Leaders need to be skilled communicators in countless relationships to motivate, encourage and inspire; to train, share ideas and negotiate.
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