3 Tips for Better Communication
Foster connection and build trust to transform your workplace
by Abbey Johnston | Sep 1, 2021
Communication is not just transmission. It is creation.
Communication creates connection. It shapes how we see ourselves and how we see others. It molds our choices, inspires our behavior, mitigates our growth and is the vehicle of our influence.
The most crucial truth about human communication is that what we say, and do, impacts people. Intentional or unintentional, our communication has the power to heal, help or hinder. As leaders our presence isn’t neutral. We are either using communication to build or break.
Julien Mirivel, Ph.D, a Professor of Applied Communication to the University of Arkansas has spent his whole career researching effective communication. He shares the following in his article The Six Keys to Positive Communication,
“What we say, what we do, affects people. It affects who they are in the moment, and it affects who they become…It creates experiences and builds relationships. If we take away communication we take away relationship. In fact, I would propose that when you communicate you are doing the work of relationship. You are relating.”
Effective leaders harness the power of communication
Thriving organizations are made up of thriving teams and thriving teams are built on relationships. Therefore, if we want to elevate our personal and team performance we can’t ignore how we are using communication to build meaningful connections. We need to use communication to do the powerful work of relating. Mirivel also shares, “As leaders, we can think of human connection as just as real a form of giving as giving actual money.” Connection is the currency of our influence.
So if communication is the foundation of connection and connection is the currency of our influence. How do we get better at it?
3 Communication Tips to Foster Connection & Build Trust
#1 Prioritize communication.
You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all freaking busy. The reality is that taking time to stop and personally connect with someone is hard to do. If we want to have a more powerful impact on others through connection we have to prioritize it.
- Schedule (and show up for) one coffee a week with a key team member or colleague.
- Block off time in your calendar where your goal is to meaningfully roam the office to say “hi”, check in or catch up with people.
- Every morning before logging into your email – take a 2 minute beat – think about something you appreciate in someone you work with and share it with them.
#2 Ask questions.
Connection is formed when we feel seen and appreciated by others. One of the best ways to do this is by asking questions. Good questions.
- Start with “what.” Powerful questions cannot be answered in one word. For example, instead of asking “Did you enjoy that meeting?” try “What did you think about that meeting?” or instead of “Is there anything else I can help you with?” try “What does support from me look like?”
- Make it about them. Asking thoughtful questions demonstrates to another person that you are interested in them, that you respect their perspective, and desire connection.
When you ask a question, listen to the response. When we ask a meaningful question then check out for the answer – it can make people feel vulnerable and exposed and actually decrease connection.
- Remove distractions. Put your phone away, close the laptop, move to a quieter place. If you are in the middle of something, name a time to circle back when you can be more present.
- Admit the drift. Being a good listener doesn’t mean we never get distracted – it means we know how to get back on track. It might sound like, “Hey, I missed what you were saying and want to make sure I’m tracking – can you start from…?” Being brave enough to admit when you’re off track not only helps you listen better, it builds trust.
As leaders we have a responsibility to own our influence and be intentional about how we use it. What we say and do impacts those around us. We can build or we can break. And, now is the time for building. We are desperate for connection within our workplaces and a simple communication practice (like the ones above) can be the very thing that enables our collective success.