Live Encounters Magazine May 2021.
Impactful Communication: Communicate to Conquer
The pandemic has proved that we rarely get the chance to select certainty. We have slowly got accustomed to the ‘new normal.’ Almost everything has changed. Amongst the few things that has not changed, is the significance of impactful communication. It will remain crucial as a paradigm shift in this VUCA world with regard to building relationships in personal and social life as well as at the workplace. Technology has, undoubtedly facilitated us in many ways, but it has also brought down the number of real conversations we have with people. We should remember that the bonds we develop in the present decide the future of our organization. Communication has to be a dialogue spiced with empathy and compassion to nurture bonds for a lifetime. In my book, ‘Impactful Communication: Communicate to Conquer,’ I have looked at the various nuances of impactful communication for sustaining relationships in both personal and professional life. In the subsequent paragraphs, I offer some insights from the book.
Impactful communication begins by being an active listener. Listen to absorb, to understand. Do not listen to react or to reply. Follow the 70:30 formula where you listen 70% of the time during a conversation, and speak only 30% of it. The outcome, you become the best of communicators. Remember, your speaking skills might turn you into a public speaker, nevertheless your listening makes you best at mindful communication. Listening is a choice, an art, and a gift, develop it.
While you are listening, focusing not only on each and every word but also understanding the aim with which each word is spoken, lays the foundation of mindful communication. While speaking, observing closely—first, your thoughts, words and tone—completes the cycle of mindful communication. You communicate the best when your head, heart and body work in unison. Just like the pillars of a building keep it erect after the foundation is laid, mindfulness is the pillar that keeps your head, heart and body erect. Head has an aim, which leads the heart to have awareness of the present and the body gives approval through body language, eye contact and tone.
What’s Wrong with Our Listening?
The problem with our listening is that most of the time, we are into non-listening behaviours, which include pseudo listening, selective listening, insensitive listening, ambushing, stage hogging, defensive listening and insulated listening. As a result, we multitask—watching news on television while cutting vegetables, receiving phone calls while answering to emails, discussing home issues with spouse while watering the plants. Many a times, we are listening but without being in the moment. Mindful listening is when you are able to experience and relate to the speaker. Follow some simple steps to become a mindful listener.
- Concentrate: Focus on the speaker completely. Cut all the surrounding sounds. Silent your phone for all calls and notifications. Be in the present. Come out of the past, stop thinking about the future while listening.
- Don’t speak: While listening, just listen. Even if you are eager to say something, don’t interrupt. Offer what you have once the speaker has completed. This requires endurance but is not impossible.
- Acknowledge: You don’t need to accept or confirm what you are listening, just an acknowledgement is enough. Acknowledgement happens through warmth in your body language and facial expressions.
Effective Communication is Simple!
Cut the clutter from your communication. Keep it simple; simplicity is perpetual. The greatest leaders around the globe use the simplest of words while communicating. Correctness, completeness, conciseness, clarity, concreteness are very essential to a communication; nonetheless equally vital are courtesy and consideration. Remember, whether it is spoken or written, communication cannot follow the rule of ‘One size fits all.’ Customize and personalize your choice of words and tone and see the difference.
People may forget your looks; people may forget the gifts you gave them. But they will remember you for a lifetime for the way you treated them! Your behaviour is your signature and it includes both verbal and nonverbal behaviour. Just like your listening matters, your effectiveness in presenting yourself with dignity, poise and grace, matters.
Nonverbal communication carries more message than your verbal communication. The ‘what’ is to be said through words but the ‘how’ accounts for the non-verbal, which includes body language, voice modulation, eye contact, dressing style, behaviour to name a few. Combined with words, non-verbal communication makes your message stronger and clearer. You can use it to stress, support and cheer up your communication with others. When you communicate, you want others to understand what you intended when you communicated. Not only is it significant to mind your non-verbal communication, but it is also crucial for you to understand the non-verbal communication of your receiver. Listen to the nonverbal in order to adapt the you-attitude in communication.
Be a Story-teller!
Stories have been woven in the very fabric of our life. They are loved by everyone across age groups and across genders. They etch in our memories permanently. Have dialogue with people! Monologue is not communication. Content is the cake; delivery is the icing. Both are equally important. Delve into the content, craft a narrative around it, and share it as a story teller. You will be reminisced for the content and delivery both! An effective story with a perfect narration is the right combination. While effective story stems out of authentic experiences, perfect narration is the outcome of suitable choice of words and appropriate non-verbal cues. The most effective stories are those which your receivers are able to relate with.
Importance of Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence in Communication
Self-esteem is the image you have of yourself. The way you behave with yourself is vital to existence. Self-esteem impacts your communication and energizes you. Self-esteem develops gradually over a period of time. Call yourself a loser for four consecutive days before a group of people, and you will find them calling you the same on the fifth day. Although it is good to identify your shortcomings and work on improving them, equally important it is to find pride in your achievements, no matter how small. A healthy pride empowers you to walk with head held high and speak with exuberance. Remember, external circumstances have the potential to harm your self-esteem, but no external motivator can build your self-esteem. High self-esteem leads to self-confidence. Self-confidence is the quality to believe in yourself, irrespective of your areas of improvement or what others might think about you. When you are self-confident, you control your life and do not permit external influences to destroy it. You are filled with positivity and optimism which is very evident in the way you communicate. A self-confident ‘you’ listens to absorb, articulates clearly, and acknowledges differences.
Impactful Communication: Communicate to Conquer
SAGE Response, March 2021, Rs 450 (Paperback), 228 pages, 9789353886981
Available to purchase online at https://stealadeal.sagepub.in/impactful-communication-deepa-sethi-9789353886981.html
Deepa Sethi is Professor, business communication, in the area of humanities and liberal arts in management at the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode, India. With more than 15 years of teaching and research experience, she specializes in business communication, soft skills, social media communication, advanced corporate communication and cross-cultural communication, among others. She has published in high-impact factor ABDC-A* and A/B category journals. She is also the guest editor of various special issues of journals listed in ABDC and Scopus.
© Professor Deepa Sethi