No matter where you are in your career, the greatest challenge you face will probably not be the technical side of your job, but rather interacting with other people. When it comes to technical skills, they can be taught and learnt. However, the art of dealing with people is very challenging, because not every person is the same. What drives one individual will differ from another, as well as morals, values and upbringing – all of which play a part in how people behave and interact.
I have known several leaders who believe, “The minute I climb up the ladder, I can do things my way because people will have to listen to me.” This is so dangerous. The truth is that your ultimate success is more likely to depend on your ability to build relationships with people.
The damage that can stem from poor communication is sometimes irreversible and could have a domino effect such as a tense and negative working atmosphere. This could result in loss of trust and low morale, which can lead to good staff leaving. Poor communication can also result in confusion, leading to poor task handling and perhaps errors. When this involves clients, it could lead to lost business and damaged relationships.
Communicating With Heart
Remember You Are Speaking To People, Not Machines!
The one cardinal rule that I think everyone should embrace is what I call communicating with heart. So often today, office workers rarely get up and walk over to a colleague’s desk to engage in face-to-face communication. Instead, people are using Skype, Slack and other instant messaging tools to communicate. While these are useful in talking to clients and virtual colleagues, there is simply no excuse when you’re in the same room. But this is happening more often now, and when you do this, you miss the opportunity to truly connect and collaborate. You also miss out on being able to read other clues that you might normally get from body language, gestures, facial expressions and other things.
Face-to-face is the most complete, powerful form of communication. I wish more people would stop avoiding it and instead embrace it and make it work for you. There are so many opportunities that could come from connecting with another human being.
It’s Not Rocket Science
Working on being a better communicator is an ongoing process, but starting on it doesn’t have to be daunting. It can be as easy as working on one small thing a day. To get you started, here’s one of my favourite lists – People Skills For Every Day Of The Week:
Monday: Smile and be positive. It’s so simple, yet, for some, so difficult.
Tuesday: Use the other person’s name. When speaking with someone, use their first name in a casual way. For example, instead of saying “That’s a great idea,” try “That’s a great idea, Bob!”
Wednesday: Use soft, direct eye contact. Now this is a tricky one that most people will want to skip over, but it has a big, positive impact on the other person.
Thursday: Listen! So many people love talking about themselves, but part of powerful people skills is learning to listen actively.
Friday: Practice makes… a big difference (perfection is very rare). Get out there and interact. You will improve your people skills only by practicing them, so take opportunities you would normally pass up.
The ability to interact, communicate and connect is one of the greatest joys on this earth, so enjoy it. And this doesn’t have to be confined to work alone. Start a conversation with the taxi driver or the neighbour who just moved in. With people come opportunities, so just get out there and enjoy connecting with your fellow humans.