Do you want to understand and interact with your colleagues and teams on a deeper level and foster productive, healthy dialogue and relationships? For everywoman’s workplace wellbeing expert Laila Datoo, empathy and intention are key…
What makes a good communicator?
It all starts with listening. How does it feel when someone really listens to you, versus when someone isn't listening? For all of us, it can be the difference between connection and disconnection.
The feeling that you aren’t being listening to can be interpreted in very individual ways though.
In an everywoman poll, the majority of members said they could tell when someone wasn’t really listening to them because their responses didn’t make sense or because people talked over them.
Really listening to someone and understanding their point of view, even if you don't agree with it, means that they can feel they're being understood and listened to, and in return they will respond to you with more connection and depth of relationship.
And it rests on emotional intelligence… EQ is vital to good communication and greater connection. Key principles include:
Self-awareness: The ability for you to understand and recognise your own moods and how that impacts other people, including whether you’re ‘triggered’ to react by something.
Self-regulation: The ability to control and manage your impulses or moods.
Motivation: The reasons and ways you show up with people. Intentionality is key here.
Empathy: The ability to understand somebody else's point of view.
Mindfulness: This gives you the space to take a step back to see whether you are going to react or respond to a situation.
Vulnerability: When team leaders and colleagues share their vulnerability, it helps others share theirs, creating a psychologically safe place for people to communicate.
The keys to connecting with meaning
If you want to create more meaningful connections in your life, you need to concentrate on:
Being aware — often you may feel you are talking openly, but your body language could be giving a very different impression to your listener. Looking at the person you’re talking to, not turning your body away (or turning your camera off) or crossing your arms are simple ways to remain ‘open’ visually.
Setting intentions — when you think about a particular communication or a relationship you're trying to build with someone then you need to consider the intention behind it. What do you want to gain from it? What impact do you want to make? Being clear on a positive intention before any conversation — big or small — can help you stay open and on point during the interaction.
Communication intentions might include:
- I would like to show interest and empower my team
- I would like to be supportive by listening and uplifting my colleagues
- I want to listen with curiosity
- I'm not going to judge, or give my opinion in this conversation, I'm simply going to listen
Being genuine — authenticity is the foundation of any meaningful connection. This could start with something as simple as regularly and sincerely checking in with your team to see how everyone's doing; as time moves on, any work-related communication will then also become easier because you have created that positive connection.
Being encouraging — we may think that we are being encouraging, but often we're not actually doing it actively. Focus on giving feedback that is honest and non-judgmental in order to start building genuine relationships.
Being flexible — we all have different ways we prefer to communicate. Some people will prefer to send an email, others a face-to-face meeting or videoconference. Communicating through someone’s preferred channel will have greater impact and connect with them more effectively than one which they find uncomfortable or overwhelming.
Responding, not reacting — ‘When you react, you're giving away your power, when you respond you're staying in control of yourself, says Datoo.
Responding comes from a place of calm and awareness, a reaction from a place of a ‘trigger’ that is not just about what is being said in the here-and-now. A reaction tends to be immediate, visceral and something we haven't thought through. Work on responding versus reacting by creating space between the emotion and the response: take a deep breath, some physical space or even ask the person you’re talking to for a little break. All these will allow you to respond with more intention.