Inspire and Lead With Interpersonal Communication
Winston Churchill. Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Eleanor Roosevelt. What do these people have in common? They are all considered great leaders with extraordinary abilities to communicate on all levels. But, what is the secret to interpersonal communication that not only satisfies its primary purpose but also inspires and creates trust in your leadership abilities?
Interpersonal communication is not about being a great talker. The best leaders know their message must work on two levels. It needs to be understood and touch listeners emotionally.
One of the first steps in learning how to communicate well is learning how to actively listen. This skill enables leaders to assess the climate in the room and adjust their message accordingly. Remember, it is not about you. It’s about who is listening to what you have to say and how it impacts them. Stephen Covey said it best: “Seek first to understand, and then be understood.”
Forbes outlines 10 principles to follow to ensure great interpersonal communication for leaders:
- Build trust – You can’t demand trust. You have to earn it by exhibiting the right behaviors, thoughts, and making good decisions consistently.
- Relationship building –Talk to people and let them know you care about them and their jobs. Learn to understand their behavioral styles.
- Be specific – Be simple and concise when communicating. Respect your time and others.
- Focus on others – Focus on your audience’s wants, needs, and desires to contribute more than you receive.
- Keep an open mind – Make it a goal to understand what is on people’s minds using dialogue.
- Listen – Use conversations to understand that knowledge is gained by listening.
- Be empathetic – Be authentic and exhibit true caring about your business and its workers.
- Read between the lines – Learn to understand what is not being said.
- Know your subject – Address both the “what” and the “how” when you speak.
- Speak to groups as individuals – Make people feel as if you are speaking to them alone.
Furthermore, don’t be afraid to change the message if it’s not working. Use humor, questions, stories, or data to connect with your audience, while building trust and confidence. Often people don’t understand where someone is coming from. Make sure to justify your message with knowledge, reason or empathy, so it is not ignored.
There’s another element to interpersonal communication: body language or nonverbal communication. If someone is nodding with arms tightly crossed, you will get a mixed message. Facial expressions, gestures, and body movements convey 60 to 90 percent of our message. Words constitute about 7 percent of the communication.
How can you improve your interpersonal skills? Allison Kay, a career coach, has these tips:
- Practice active listening skills during all conversations. Always be mindful of what the other person is saying. Paraphrase what they say, and ask questions. When a person knows you are really listening, a better relationship results.
- Show appreciation for co-workers by sincere praise and recognition. Appreciation keeps people motivated and productive.
- Use positive body language by looking your best, practicing welcoming body language techniques, and smiling during interactions with others.
- Promote a positive work environment by keeping in touch with employees, offering assistance when appropriate, and using empathy to understand various situations.
Honing interpersonal skills is essential for any leader, or anyone who aspires to be in a leadership position. However, effective communication is just one facet of great leadership.
Besides interpersonal communication skills, leaders also need to have:
- Facilitating skills to inspire others to accomplish goals.
- Mentoring skills to provide guidance.
- Negotiating skills to know how to create win-win outcomes.
- Influence and motivation skills to understand how to inspire instead of command.
- Decision-making skills to steer the company in the right direction.
- Planning skills to promote goal attainment.
- Integrity skills to build trust at all levels through honesty, fairness and relationship building.
- Team work skills to foster cooperation, collaboration and delegation abilities.
- Stress management skills to develop patience, resilience and to keep a positive attitude.
Practicing these skills can give you a reputation not only as a leader, but as an inspirational leader who communicates and relates effectively to everyone in a positive, personal way. Start by listening, asking questions, and showing a sincere and genuine interest. It works every time!