Leadership and communication go hand in hand. How we communicate with others is integral to our success. Communication is a leadership skill that has multiple dimensions, verbal, non-verbal, and written, so if you want to get better at this critical skill, here are some proven strategies to learn;
1. Learn the basics of body language
Nonverbal communication accounts for 55 percent of how a public speaker is perceived. This means that the majority of what you say is communicated not through words, but through body language. Things like posture and eye contact matter. Stand tall and look people in the eye. Crossing your arms or reducing your size, in any way, communicates closed body language and a lack of confidence. Read more on body language here.
2. Get rid of filler words
Things like "Ummm" may seem innocuous but they drastically reduce the persuasive value of what you're saying. Most of us use them out of habit. One way to get rid of them is to start keeping track of when you say words like “um” or “like.” You can also start to try to pause before you speak. Silence is not always bad, in fact, it communicates confidence and control and be assured that the silences feel longer to you, than they do to your audience.
3. Lead with empathy, not ego
When we have to have difficult discussions try to always lead with empathy. This means instead of using judgment "What you did was wrong/unacceptable", start with "Why did you decided to do that?" or "How could I have helped you more in this situation?" or "How was this in your eyes?". This takes you into an open and honest conversation where the other person can feel comfortable responding. This will help you to find solutions far more effectively and also build respect in those around you.
4. Listen, actually listen
One of the best things you can do to improve your communication skills is to learn to listen. So many of us are just waiting to respond. However, an effective conversation is a line of words elegantly connected with listening. So, instead of responding with “yes, but”, try and replace it with a follow-up question. Let people finish what they are saying and don’t interrupt if that is your inclination. Genuinely, listen to the speaker. These simple skills can go a long way in building trust with those around you.
5. Make your communication two way
Ask more questions and seek feedback. This is different to listening and more about keeping your mind open to input from others. The most successful people and companies are the most flexible. Asking questions about how others feel about a given topic or how they think something could be done better puts you in an active role. Asking questions is also a core leadership skill, it builds trust and keeps your mind open to innovation.
6. Create stories
Stories are powerful. They activate our brains, make presentations engaging and make us more persuasive than others. Use stories to bolster a point, "I think we should do it this way because of a time..", use it to create trust, or prove characteristic points about yourself to a new audience for example, "I believe I can do this, because..." In its simplest form, a story is a description of cause and effect. Everything in our brain is looking for the cause and effect relationship of something we’ve previously experienced. This is simply how humans are wired. Stories help you to make your points stronger and are more memorable for your audience.