The most effective communication that a leader can have is face-to-face within Intimate Proximity. In addition to simply conveying the content of the message, the attentive listener can pick up valuable meaning from body language, tempo, volume, and initial responses. All of these additional sources of communication are made more difficult with electronic media.
Here are 10 simple techniques to improve your leadership communication within Intimate Proximity:
1. Establish eye contact to change at to with
While just about none of us like to be talked about (unless it’s to be praised), few of us like to be talked at. We prefer to be talked with. Making eye contact with your audience involves them in a conversation even if they’re not saying anything. Even if you’re talking to a crowd, make eye contact with as many as possible to help get them engaged.
2. Eye contact doesn’t involve staring
Now that you’re making good eye contact, remember not to stare. Just about anyone feels uncomfortable in an unblinking gaze. Break up your bouts of eye contact by periodically looking away. The act of looking upwards can be seen as a sign of attempted remembrance. One technique to help you keep from staring is to move your eyes along a triangle from left eye, to right eye, to the nose, and then back again. Another technique is to look at the bridge of the nose. It doesn’t have the same impact but it can help if you’re uncomfortable with eye contact.
3. Speaking to the left eye conveys emotion
This is going to sound downright odd, but it works. When you want to make an emotional rather than just a factual point, speak to the person’s left eye (right as you look at them). The left eye goes to the right brain hemisphere which is responsible for controlling emotions. Many West Point cadets have used this method to stop upperclassmen from yelling.
4. Pay attention to your handshake
Since Intimate Proximity keeps you within handshake distance, you should be aware that your handshake says a lot about your leadership style. It should be firm but not crushing with web to web contact. Don’t offer your hand like a dead fish and, likewise, don’t let your handshake be mistaken for a vise grip. When you shake hands, always look the recipient in the eye and smile politely. To do otherwise makes you appear insincere.
5. Introduction protocols still have a role in today’s multicultural society
Although many etiquette conventions have fallen by the wayside, good manners are always in fashion. While I cannot do justice to the myriad handshake and other salutation protocols in the world’s disparate cultures, you should be aware that not all societies greet each other the same way. You would not want to greet a contingent from Saudi Arabia in the same manner as one from Japan. You should know that the Chinese have different expectations from the Germans. As with any thoughtful communication, pay attention to your audience and tailor your presentation.
6. Spelling in electronic communications counts
E-mail, instant message, and text messaging are poor choices for communication media. Don’t settle for them over a proper face-to-face conversation. While we won’t always have the opportunity to communicate face-to-face, we need to remember that even electronic missives should reflect our leadership style. Sloppy pop-culture abbreviations, misspellings, and poor sentence structure are all supposed to be OK in the interest of faster communication. However, they make communication more difficult. Don’t tolerate them in your messages or those of your team. While spellcheck and autocorrect are good tools to help the challenged speller, do not completely rely on them to do your proofreading for you. Take the time to ensure what you send out is your best effort. A good leader will never ask for fast and wrong.
7. Proper grammar tells the world that you mean business
A few years ago, my wife, Michelle, wanted to get a desk from Craigslist for our daughter. Although she wasn’t the first to reply to the ad, her response was chosen over several others. The seller explained his simple reason: Michelle used proper English and sentence structure in her e-mail. This convinced him that she wasn’t some huckster and would probably be a responsible buyer. Any clown can text “hey, wanna buy sum electronic compownents???” but you’d rather do business with someone who writes that they “wish to discuss how my company can fulfill your electronic component needs.”
8. Explain another’s point of view using only their words
We all need to understand that we are going to see life through our own prejudices. Don’t get fooled into thinking anyone is like you. This idea is simply wrong. Just because something works for you doesn’t mean it will work for others. You cannot say that you understand someone else until you can express their viewpoint using their words to their satisfaction. You don’t have to agree with them, but you have to use their words.
9. Silence can be an ally
Sometimes, saying nothing can be the exact right thing. Silence can make you seem more knowledgeable than you really are. If you are constantly telling everyone what you know or what you think, they’ll know that you’re out of ideas when you stop talking. Your silence can also just be the time when others are telling you what’s on their mind. Don’t feel obligated to fill the sound-gap just to hear yourself speak. It can appear that you’re thoughtfully considering what’s been said (even if you’re not).
10. Don’t feel compelled to communicate if you have nothing worthwhile to say
Let’s say you wanted to put together a list of 10 leadership communication techniques but you really had just 9 things worth mentioning. Just leave your list at 9.