Over the next five weeks, I’ll be using this space to share some (25 to be exact) of the key habits of the most successful communicators — whether it be at home, at work, with strangers or family, or online. Many of these are covered in Honestly Speaking: How the Way We Communicate Transforms Leadership, Love, and Life available now.
Good communicators work at it, and some of being good at communicating is honing your skills, while other parts are more about working on yourself. They develop good habits and patterns that reflect clarity of purpose, empathy, and care, and they are thoughtful about how and what they say. Much like an Olympic athlete or a concert musician practices and hones their skill with drills so that the basics become habits, so too with communication.
Here are the first five habits.
- They carefully check for grammar and spelling errors before they send emails, texts, and posts on social media. It might seem like I’m nitpicking here, and different people have different strengths and abilities here. But in general, it’s true what your fifth-grade teacher always said: your spelling and grammar matter. This of course doesn’t mean that you will always be perfect; typos happen. But this comes back to the idea of care and conscientiousness in your communication. It’s about being perceived how you want to be perceived — as thoughtful, credible, and intentional. Again, it’s about the audience, not you. You might have the most important idea in the history of your company, but if you send an email riddled with errors, it will show to the recipient that you didn’t put a whole lot of thought into relaying the message — which makes it seem like you don’t really care about them. Especially if you’re a communications professional, you should try to communicate clearly and effectively and set a good example.
- They are direct. Excellent communicators don’t beat around the bush. They don’t couch difficult news in fluff. They don’t leave people guessing as to their true intentions. They say exactly what they mean directly. Just come out and say it.
- They are genuinely empathetic. If there’s one tool we can all work on to make the world a better place, it’s empathy. When a person feels heard and understood, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say, and your work together (both professional and personal) will be much more fulfilling. Be respectful and get out of your own way.
- They find a true connection with people. Have you ever met someone who made you feel as though you’d been friends or colleagues forever? This isn’t divine intervention; this is one person’s ability to find what connects them to others and make the most of it.
- They are good storytellers. Some of the best communicators understand the basics of ninth-grade English: a story must be compelling in order to captivate the hearts and minds of your audience. Whether you’re talking about the challenges of a certain project or having a conversation with someone in your personal life, the best way to be heard is to tell a good story. A good story can be an example, a short narrative, or something more imaginative. It’s how good communicators move from telling to showing.
I’d love to hear what you think!