How many times have you had a conversation with a colleague who carries on about a topic and you never get to say a word – nevermind ask a question?
One-sided conversations can get tedious – quickly. And I’m sure if you have experienced this, you hide from the person when you see him coming down the hallway.
It’s a shame. Most likely, that expert is shutting out colleagues due to his communication style, and he doesn’t even know it.
Further, this person is probably being held back in his career for his poor communication. The skillset to bring people along (or the ability to present a new idea and convince a team to accept it, fund it, implement it, and eventually adopt it as their own) is key in large companies or organizations where there are many departments, roles, and personalities that need to understand what he says in order to understand why he’s valuable.
It’s possible to learn how to bring people along through your thought process and introduce new ideas. Here are 6 communication tips to consider:
- Stop thinking about what you want to tell people. Start thinking about what you want to communicate.
When you think about what you want to say, you are preparing a speech. It’s almost like listening to respond rather than listening to understand. The focus is on you and what you want to do. The focus needs to be on your audience.
When you think about how you want to communicate a thought or idea, you are considering not only your words but the best delivery method and medium:
- Where do I start the story? A personal anecdote, facts or something different?
- Which points to raise during a conversation?
- Use email, a presentation, or a report?
- How much knowledge does someone have?
- Should I provide reference materials just in case?
Think about how to best present an idea rather than barfing facts at someone. Remember: how you present an idea has everything to do with the team accepting, adopting and implementing it.
- Respect your colleague’s experiences.
Most likely, your colleagues don’t share the same in-depth experience that you do in your field, but they probably have some experience with it. When you talk to them, find a way to connect with their experiences. Some suggestions how to do this:
- Directly ask your colleagues when you start the discussion to share their experiences.
- Assume your audience’s experience level from the start (between beginner and intermediate). Ask questions throughout your discussion or presentation to adjust the conversation.
Entering a conversation assuming your audience knows nothing can be a poor strategy. You may waste 10-20 minutes reviewing basic ideas and concepts that they already know. Respect your audience – most people know a lot more than you think. Let your colleagues ask questions as you go along and shift the conversation appropriately, which leads to the next point.
- Be interactive.
Standing at a pulpit, giving a lecture isn’t fun for the listener. Have a conversation instead. Get your colleagues to talk about what they do know about the topic.
- Ask them questions.
- Invite them into the conversation.
- Encourage people to be controversial.
- Get them to express themselves.
People learn more when they participate in a conversation rather than listening to a lecture.
Tip: If you are talking more than a couple of minutes at a time, you are probably lecturing. And for every minute of lecture, your listener is getting more bored, distant, detached, and disinterested.
- People are emotional.
We often forget this. If you share an idea that could change someone’s world, pause after you present the idea. Let the information settle and allow the person time to process. People take time to consider, absorb, and adopt to new thinking. And that’s ok.
New ideas can spark negative reactions too – especially if the suggestion will impact jobs or cause organizational change. And this is ok . Try not get triggered during the discussion and remember your colleagues are reacting to a new idea they never previously considered. Give them the time needed to consider it properly. They will come around.
- Tone matters.
If you sound like a know-it-all and accuse your team of having no vision, being old-fashioned, or simply wrong, no one will listen to you. Make sure you have a tone that invites others to contribute to the discussion. You want to be positive, open, honest, and accepting. Again, your goal is to get others to not only buy into the idea, but make the idea their own. They will only do this if they see you have the best intentions for the larger organization rather than yourself. Putting down your audience transitions you to be the hero. Including your audience and helping them understand your idea makes them the hero.
- Don’t scold, moral grandstand or shame your audience.
Psychology and sociology are great tools to help you understand your audience’s perspective and find ways to better communicate with them. They aren’t tools to use for judging, name calling or labeling. That only ruins your reputation and your relationships. You may think you know the motivation for someone’s behavior, but you truly don’t know that. Ironically, that is your assumption based on your own psychology and sociology.
Instead of judging, assume the best of your audience and clarify confusing issues. Usually confusion is the result of a minor miscommunication. Don’t let the conversation escalate to become inflammatory. And don’t resort to labeling. Ever.
If you capture the hearts and minds of your audience during your conversation or presentation, you are on your way to bringing your team with you. This is how change happens – people hear a new idea, adopt it as their own, it gets funded and then implement it across an organization. However, this only happens if you can communicate and engage your audience to see the value of your idea and contribution and want to be part of something bigger than themselves. These communication tips should help you do that.