Last week I went on a blind date. I know, I know, but I did it anyway. He was a nice enough man, but I quickly noticed a tendency to rest his gaze on objects and people around the room instead of maintaining eye contact. For a hot minute, I took it personally but quickly realized that it was just a bad habit that had nothing to do with me. He did this even while ordering a second drink from the server.
This unfortunate pattern was distracting and caused a disruption in our communication. I quickly felt myself involuntarily disengaging because I did not feel heard. There were awkward lulls in the conversation and, with minimal eye contact, there was simply no connection.
Communication disrupters like this contribute greatly to misunderstandings, lost opportunities, disengaged employees, and even marital breakups. Things in the environment and unconscious habits can interfere with effective communication, creating barriers that can stunt your company's growth.
An effective leader and outstanding communicator knows to steer clear of these communication barriers. Sometimes, it requires an adjustment to your body language or the manner in which you communicate; other times the solution may involve a change of environment. Some of these barriers are an easy fix; some require a focused approach to better your communication skills.
Busy entrepreneurs vacillate between going all out on weekly employee meetings and maintaining little-to-no connection with their team. Like the parent who strictly prohibits sweets one day and plies their child with candy to keep them quiet the next, sending conflicting messages to your team will cause frustration and confusion. Eventually, what you say will carry little weight and your wounded employees will feel unappreciated. They not only want to hear from you on a consistent basis, but they need to be heard by you as well.
Your employees are your strongest asset; schedule time for them and stick to this important commitment no matter what.
Naturally, a noisy room is a less-than-perfect environment for a meaningful discussion. Even the lulling sound of traffic noise through a window or running water can tease the mind toward distraction. One type of noise that people don't often consider is an overly cluttered or "loud" environment. An overload of pictures on your desk or décor that over-stimulates the brain may cause a subconscious interference in the other person's focus.
For important conversations, including those that are intended to direct or instruct someone, keep your surroundings simple and as quiet as possible.
Crossed arms, tapping feet, drifting eyes, and even poor posture sends unwanted signals to the person or people with whom you are conversing. Messages of boredom, anger and defensiveness, as well as a lack of confidence are quickly conveyed by how we move or hold ourselves during a discussion.
Ask someone close to you if you have body language tendencies that may distract others or send unwanted signals. Practice sitting still and maintaining a confident demeanor, including the use of eye contact. Remain present in the moment and watch for non-verbal cues of restlessness from others in the room. Most importantly, listen. Don't think you're fooling anyone when your mind drifts, people know when they are not being heard.
Experts often tend to use technical language, even when speaking to someone outside of the industry. Some do it to look smart, some are simply unaware and assume that everyone knows the standard terminology. It's not that your audience is dumb, it's more about boring them--a sure way to lose an audience of one or many.
You don't want to force others to use their brain power to internally interpret what you're saying, so keep it meaningful and descriptive. Remember, people don't care how you do what you do, they care about why you do it. Reveal your passion, not your ego.
Technology has increased the speed in which we receive information. As a result, most people have a shorter attention span than they we did a few years ago. There's a limit to how long you can keep someone's attention; people will disengage if you offer too much or unnecessary information.
Ask for feedback when you are done conveying the necessary information. For instance, when I offer a client a different perspective on something I usually ask a question like, "In what way does that resonate with you, or not?" Their answer requires thought and reflection and offers me cues that influence my next steps in the conversation.
Giving your attention to probable communication barriers will vastly improve the impact and effectiveness of your conversations. The ability to create powerful interactions is a necessary leadership skill and well worth continual improvement, these basics will get you well on your way.