How to Communicate Constructively
As a leader it is easy to forget that people actually pay close attention to what you are saying, even in the most casual conversations. Even more than your words, your style will be observed – how the message is delivered.
You have position power, which automatically gives your words a different layer of meaning. When you combine this with personal power (and many leaders have a strong dose of this) the combination can have great impact. The challenge is to make this a constructive rather than a negative impact.
- Talk less rather than more. Try and ensure that team members or the other person have the opportunity to express themselves before you join in .
- Pay attention to your rate of speech. Try to slow down rather than sounding like a bullet train. If you think quickly and patience is not your virtue you may be talking too quickly for your listeners.
- Pay attention to your tone. Most situations require it should be neither too gentle nor too harsh. It should convey a message of respect for both yourself and your listener.
- Consider the communication needs of the other person. For example if they are a concrete person, focus on the detail and build up to the big picture in a logical, sequential manner. If the listener is a conceptual thinker you can start with the overall picture and use analogies and more abstract expression. The best communicators alter their style to suit the needs of their listeners.
- Ensure your body language is open and positive. A roll of the eyes, however subtle, can override a thousand words.
- Be careful who is around when you vent your frustration. For example: Your Direct Reports may ascribe far more meaning than you intended when you are letting off steam.
- Speak in positive terms. This is even possible when the subject matter is sensitive or inflammatory. Avoid harsh, judgmental, critical language, particularly when speaking about peoples’ behaviours, attitudes and personalities. Focus on issues, not personalities to convey the message.
- When you are delivering a strong and/or negative message ensure you are using “I” language. For example: I have some strong concerns about the quality of work.
- Whenever possible create a positive bridge between your self and the other person: I appreciate your efforts to date…The bridge allows the other person to be receptive to anything else that might follow .
So What? Why bother being a constructive communicator?
- Effective leaders need highly motivated, focused individuals behind them. Constructive communication from you can have an enormous, positive impact.
- It is possible that people may avoid delivering you bad news if you tend to react negatively
- By communicating constructively you will be building a positive, open culture where the toughest, sensitive issues can be addressed early and with finesse
Remember, communicating constructively is a choice that pays great dividends!