You might wonder if anyone cares about what you have to say as you look at the glazed eyes staring back at you. Maybe the eyes aren't glazed. Worse, they're wandering, communicating that other person isn't engaged in the conversation.
We all know how vital being an effective communicator is in the business world. Any business owner could regale you with tales of when a lack of communication caused a catastrophe at work or when an untimely miscommunication destroyed a relationship, changing the trajectory of the business forever.
I recently chatted with GG Benitez, who shared with me her secrets for communicating effectively. As CEO and founder of her own public relations firm, GG Benitez and Associates Public Relations Inc., GG has used these methods to reach her goals through spurring positive communication in both her personal and professional life.
Seek First To Understand The Other Person
The business world is full of egos. One wrong word can completely derail a conversation.
Often, we look to get our point across first without taking into account what someone else has to say. What we don't realize is this can make the other person feel defensive.
Instead, approach a conversation ensuring the other person is open and willing to receive information by "disarming" them.
"The most effective way to 'disarm' anyone you are communicating with is to make it clear that you are completely listening to the way they feel and fully understand and respect their position, before stating your own need, want or complaint," Benitez explained.
Doing this takes some patience and "ego swallowing," Benitez admitted--which isn't how most of us are wired. But it's nothing that can't be mastered without practice, and a strong vision for the ideal end result of the exchange.
If you're not a natural listener, you might break a sweat trying to refrain from speaking as you approach a conversation. Like any new strategy, practicing this one will feel foreign at first, maybe uncomfortable to the point where you feel it compromises your authenticity.
It's not about being insincere, though. It's about learning patience and changing your thought patterns. The first step is becoming aware of your own behavior pattern when communicating.
"When conversing with someone, try to visualize their story, their message and their perspective," Benitez recommended. "'See' it through. Try to empathize with them, whether you agree or not."
Benitez also warned against using language that can be misconstrued as "bossy" or "accusatory." Instead, she recommends using words that paint a picture from your own perspective, such as "I feel" and "I think," rather than beginning with "you should" or "you did."
Establish Individual Goals
As a framework for effective communication, Benitez recommends using the "I understand (this) about you, but (this) about me, therefore..." model to establish and decide how two people might work together to achieve goals.
In the business world, this method can be used to tactfully approach the tricky conversations often encountered, and Benitez explained how she has achieved success with his model in her professional life.
As a publicist, there have been times when she needs to persuade a client to spend money to support campaigns that may be out of budget. "Money is a touchy, stressful subject," Benitez remarked. She starts the conversation by stating her awareness of the limited budget upfront. The key, she said, is "expressing the potential outcome based on my need for the extra funds. This shows the client that I am respecting their budget but at the same time it might be necessary for them to spend more than they might have planned."
During a challenging conversation, you might be inclined to express your own feelings to get your point across. Knowing this works against your "cause" actually gives you an advantage in business communication. You could be the one closing the deal, achieving resolutions, and building true relationships while watching others talk themselves in circles. Because you know the secret: If you truly want people to listen and understand, you must listen and seek to understand others first.