So often in preparing to communicate, we make a fundamental mistake: we enter what my colleagues and I refer to as “the messenger mindset.” What this means is that our entire approach to communication is about the “delivery of information.” When we fall into the messenger mindset trap, we are only thinking about what we want to say, the information we want to deliver, and what we will get out of the interaction. In other words, we prepare for our communication in declarative terms: here’s what I need to say… full stop, ending with a period.
But what happens if, instead of preparing “in periods”, we prepare “in commas and question marks”? Instead of simply stating here’s what I need to say, we add in a little more… and how do I think my audience will react to it? Furthermore, what do I want them to think, feel, remember or do? What is the outcome I want to create, rather than just what do I want to say? And finally, how do I use my skills to persuade them and get them where I am trying to go?
To communicate effectively and powerfully, we need empathy. We need to understand, and take an interest in, our audience, their goals and their constraints. We need to be able to understand that communication isn’t a one-way flow of information, but a dialogue — conceptually, if not literally. We need curiosity: what do we currently know about our audience, their perspective and their needs and wants? And what else can we know?
We also need to know ourselves. Over years of coaching executive clients, I’ve learned that communication skills isn’t a binary of good or bad… and for most of us it isn’t limited to a natural set of skills. It is a path of skill accumulation, and, with practice, anyone can move up the path toward the highest levels of performance.
At The Latimer Group, we break down these skill levels into three general groups:
- Good communicators, or what my company calls those at Professional Standard, deliver information in a clear, concise way.
- Very good communicators, or those at Leadership Standard, take a step beyond mere clarity, and forge a connection with their audience and cause them to care about the topic.
- The best communicators, those at the Executive Standard, not only make their audience care, but compel them to act. These speakers can consistently persuade their audience to give them that budget, to change that strategy, to look at that problem in a new way.
So how do you break out of the messenger mindset and set off down the path of persuasive speaking?
First, make sure that you are approaching communication with the right attitude — one that recognizes that every communication is an opportunity to persuade.
Second, make a commitment to the process. Take the time you need to practice your skills as a speaker, and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.
Third, build your preparation around a series of questions that allow you to understand, or at least try to understand, what others in the conversation might be thinking, feeling, or interpreting.
The challenge might seem overwhelming. But, like any complex skill, effective communication isn’t monolithic; it is an accumulation of smaller skill sets, each of which can be understood and practiced on its own.
Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?
We transform teams and individuals with repeatable toolsets for persuasive communication.
Explore training, coaching, and consulting services from The Latimer Group.
Looking for more from The Latimer Group?