Anticipating the raucous singing of The Twelve Days of Christmas around my dinner table on the 25th, I started to wonder what the Five Gold Rings of communication might be.
So here they are: five tips I would pass on, from 20 years in the training room, to help us become skilled and confident communicators, during the holiday season and beyond.
GOLD RING 1 – LISTEN
Listening (rather than waiting for your chance to speak) is one of the most powerful communication tools. It shows your audience that you value them, creates empathy, and enables you to learn something. Whether your CEO is talking about targets or your grannie is talking about Poldark, be ‘present’, be attentive, and good things will follow.
GOLD RING 2 – DEALING WITH CHALLENGE
This is one of the most common issues among the people I train. And it’s no surprise that we struggle – there’s evidence that we have the same hormonal response to verbal challenge as to physical threat. And, of course, during the festive period, in close proximity to relatives, fuelled by a seasonal glass or two, we can find ourselves more than normally ‘triggered’. The key? Silence, respect and a question. A moment’s pause before responding allows us to acknowledge that, as Sheryl Sandberg suggests in Lean In, their ‘truth’ is as valid as our ‘truth’. So while we may not agree with their view, they are entitled to it! This acceptance has a huge impact on how we respond in tone, body language and content.
Asking for clarification/an example/justification for their view is a useful way of buying thinking time and a chance to actually consider the issues. Our response is therefore likely to me more measured and less aggressive. It may lead to the offer of a third mince pie.
GOLD RING 3 – CONFIDENCE
I passionately believe that anyone can grow their own confidence as a communicator – whether they fear speaking up in meetings or chatting to great uncle Peter over a Yule log. In fact I’ve seen people transformed before my very eyes through a set of practical techniques, habits, behaviours. Why not start with the amazing Amy Cuddy and her transformational work on body language – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc
GOLD RING 4 – SMALL TALK
Increasingly people tell me that they are uncomfortable making small talk with clients/potential clients. Many others dread formal networking events. For me, the key to feeling and performing better is mind set. If you arrive full of curiosity about the people you might meet and the things you might discover, you are likely to form the beginnings of new, genuine relationships. Arriving with the intention of displaying your new shiny elevator pitch is rather like discussing wedding hymns on a first date – premature. See what Simon Sinek has to say about the importance of small talk in this brilliant interview about millennials in the workplace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU
GOLD RING 5 – BEING ASSERTIVE
In the area of being assertive (as opposed to being aggressive – some people confuse the two), yet again silence is golden. How often, after making a reasonable request (at home and at work), do we carry on talking – justifying ourselves, explaining, persuading, entreating, apologising? Let’s establish a new habit in 2017 – make the request and then zip it. And to get us into the habit, over the next week, let’s vow not to apologise if the turkey is dry, the sprouts are raw or the parsnips are flaccid!!!