So many people come up to me and ask, "Marcel, what's the secret to communicating well?" After studying their faces for a brief moment, the usual response leaves some perplexed: "Be emotionally present."
It's not only a learned skill, this is taking communication to an artform. The people that experience breakthroughs in the game of listening-and-speaking, will "park" all their thoughts, remove the internal clutter and noise from their heads, and engage the other person with complete, distraction-free, attention.
Here are five ways to be emotionally present so you can have spectacular conversations that lead to amazing breakthroughs.
1. Be present by listening intently first.
Effective communication isn't just about talking; great communicators listen intuitively to the other person's story, asking questions, and searching conversations for depth, meaning and understanding with their needs in mind.
Great communicators are present and in the moment. They don't need to talk over others to get their point across. To quote Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen's CEO, Cheryl Bachelder,
The biggest distinction of a leader who serves others versus themselves is the ability to listen. When you listen, you hear peoples' objections, anxieties, and fears -- and you also hear the solutions.
2. Be present by being real with your feelings.
Being real and present with your feelings will show up in statements like, "I'm really not sure where to go with this, what would you do in my situation?" or "I need some help here."
Getting it out in the open creates a space for authenticity and truth. That's what we, as leaders, should model and replicate inside our organizations.
If you're in a management role, being real and emotionally honest gives your team members permission to do the same. You will experience more connection and more honest conversations as a result.
3. Be present with the intent of developing trust.
This means that when you communicate, your intent is to put the focus on the other person. Obviously this can only happen if you apply the first point on this list in establishing rapport right off the bat. You're going to notice that, when you do, other people feel safe in your presence, and you gain influence.
This is not a pathway to manipulating future conversations. Your intent to developing trust by being more present and aware of other people's thoughts and feelings must come from the heart. It is a genuine expression of your desire to give and serve others.
4. Be present by speaking "in the positive."
Take clues from your colleagues known for being positive and happy. Have you paid attention to how they speak? Most of them, you'll note, refrain from negative words, speech, or conversational topics because they know the stressful effects it has on their emotional well-being. They stay away from unnecessary drama, malicious gossip, and psychological warfare.
Helpful tip: When you're present and "in the positive," offer the other person helpful feedback that empowers and lifts up. I'll go back to influence--doing so will inspire greatness in others, build trust, and generate happiness in your own life.
5. Be present with your body language.
What I should have done is placed this at the top of the list. Why? Because nonverbal communication is the fast track to putting people at ease and developing trust. Here are the best techniques for showing up with your body language:
- Smile with your eyes. People can see through fake smiles. Smiling with your eyes is warm and communicates to others two things: You're a safe person, and others can be open with you.
- Match your body language with your message. This simple adjustment will do wonders for you and register positively with the other person. If you're excited and happy for someone else's promotion, sound and act excited and happy!
- Pay attention to your posture. Bad posture could hurt you in a transaction, as it may send the wrong message about a lack of confidence or a closed-off personality. Think open posture (arms and legs spread in a relaxed manner instead of crossed or folded) which shows confidence. Avoid both slumping and rocking back and forth in your chair (or leaning back). Slumping conveys disinterest, rocking or leaning back says you're bored. Instead, lean forward when listening to someone speak which indicates an active interest in the speaker.
- Watch your spacing. Have you ever felt uncomfortable when talking to someone because he was invading your personal space? Culturally in America, if you're not intimately involved with the person, that's a no no.
- Maintain eye contact. If someone avoids eye contact, you'll most likely pick up the other person's discomfort (which can be a sign of dishonesty). If you're dealing with an extremely shy person, ease his discomfort by asking questions that will help open up the conversation. Typically, we maintain eye contact 30 to 60 percent of the time. More than that is welcome, as it signifies that you're interested in what the other person has to say.
- Mirror the other person's behavior. You've been there before -- the conversation is hitting on all cylinders and both parties are totally engaged. When the magic happens, it's common to see both sides subtly imitating each other's posture, stance, gestures, or facial expression. That's because mirroring nonverbal behaviors creates the sense that you're on the same page, which conveys feelings of trust.
I'm curious what you would add to this list? Leave me a comment below.