I’m going to talk about an aspect of communication that is relevant in all types of relationships, from professional to personal. My goal with this is to encourage you to think about the way you communicate with people every day, and then for you to make an active attempt to become more genuine and direct in the way you communicate with others. This is a key way to add depth and meaning to your relationships, as well as be more effective in your overall communication.
We all communicate daily, using some medium, as such we all gain our own experience and knowledge in the subject. With my background in sales, I’ve found I communicate daily with far more than most people. In addition, my ability to communicate to others in a manner they respond to positively directly affects how much I get paid, or if I’m paid at all (no pressure). So even with a long record of accomplishment of speaking and communication, being put into the ‘do or die’ situation got me on learning overload, which is where much of my views here started and were then refined through practice, experimentation, and repetition.
No one likes being lied to, and no one wants to have any kind of genuine conversation with someone they know is actively lying or misleading them. Now, that’s an extreme example however, even at a much lower level, people still don’t like talking to someone they feel may not be genuine. As a matter of fact, people are incredibly quick to pick up on someone talking while thinking of something else. Whether it be on the phone, in person, or through digital messaging, people can tell when you’re not engaged or disingenuous.
If someone dressed in a shirt and tie (business casual) carrying some form of product knocks on your door and opens with talking about the weather, even though they may have the best of intentions to help you out, you’re going to immediately see through it and patiently wait until they get to the business they’re obviously there to talk about. Or, if you’re not feeling patient, you may just slam the door on them. The same goes for any type of conversation, if you’re talking to someone and you tell they want to talk about something else, or they’re not really into it, you’re going to do the exact same thing. You’ll patiently wait for them to get to the point, or, you’ll mentally shut the door on them by either tuning out or excusing yourself from the conversation.
The simple way to avoid this is to be more genuine in your communication with others. Simple, but like many things, not necessarily easy. A way to go about this is to stick with what you care about when you initiate communication with somebody. For example; don’t track down Johnny in the break room to ask him about your project, and open with ‘hey Johnny beautiful day we’re having here isn’t it? Man, I love these Danish’s, oh boy did you catch the Falcons game?’, and then after 5-10 minutes’ slide in there, ‘oh hey by the way about that project…’.
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” ~Plato
You see, if you don’t have genuine and authentic interest about the things you’re talking about, at that moment in time you’re talking about them, people notice it. Even if it’s only subconscious and they are unaware, they will get an odd feeling and no longer want to talk with you. Many people are polite, and will halfheartedly listen to you anyway however, that’s not being an effective communicator and your proposal or idea is going to fall flat.
Try this next time someone initiates idle talk with you and see if you can tell the difference, pay attention to yourself. Are you engaged in the conversation, or are you kind of spacing out? What level of depth do you feel? If you’re spacing out or distracted, chances are there’s no meaning behind what they’re saying or they’re trying to warm you up before they get to the point. On the other hand, if what they’re saying is genuine and engaging, you’ll have a lot of trouble focusing on yourself because you’ll be so drawn into the conversation.
How do you get around this? How do you be more genuine and avoid all this time spent on going nowhere? Be genuine, be direct. For example, let’s go back to Johnny in the break room. You want to find out about your project, or something work related, maybe it’s Jenny not Johnny, I don’t know. When you approach them put what’s most important first. The exact same conversation would start like; “hey Johnny, I’m really looking forward to feedback or updates on that project, have you been able to review it yet?” Put your main point or need first, not last.
With this approach, the person you’re talking with immediately knows what’s going on, and can directly engage back. There is zero deception or misleading; “yeah we’re doing this, no it hasn’t been done yet or, I’m 5 minutes late for a meeting let’s synch up after lunch to go over it”. Simple, basic, effective. Then when you get over what you’re main concern is, it can easily tie into ‘by the way, how did the kids game go last weekend?’. The difference here is that you will have much more direct communication for both subjects, work and personal, and genuine direct communication fosters more depth in relationships.
By being genuine and direct, you also have a lot less work. You don’t have to think about, ‘what am I going to say or, how will I phrase this?’, you simply initiate the subject. Similar to the concept of not lying, you don’t need any extra thought here. Your counterpart will often also appreciate how direct you are. If they’re busy, or if it isn’t a good time to talk about it, they can tell you without wasting 5 minutes. People appreciate those who respect their time. I couldn’t count how many times customers have thanked me for being direct and not wasting their time.
“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” ~Buddha
Not only do I get compliments on being direct, it sets me apart from most people. Those I work with know that when I’m calling them, it’s for a good reason. I’m not calling them to talk about the sport team they’re a fan of, but that I have no clue about other than ESPN sports highlights. You know what else happens? In an industry where call backs are unheard of, my customers call me back after I leave a message. People respect those who respect their time and are genuine in their communication.
There is a downside that you’ll need to work on with this approach, being genuine isn’t enough. You need to learn some empathy. Without it, you’ll fall into the ‘blunt jerk’ category which won’t help you out. This took a lot of work for me to accomplish, and I’m admittedly still working on it but, the results are more than worth it I assure you.
If you’re thinking, ‘this sounds good and all but I can’t be like that or, I can’t be that direct or, I’m afraid to speak without warming someone up first’, try it anyway. Like most things worth your time in life, they’re awkward and alien when you start, and you typically have a lot of room for improvement. The only way to start, is to start. Start being more genuine and direct in your communication. Make the mistakes, learn, refine, and try again. Keep trying until you start seeing the results, then let me know how it goes.
“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.” ~Jim Rohn
Ted Talk: How to speak so that people want to listen