Even though the world has become more digital, we still work with humans. Thus, the success of your ideas and attempts to change something will 80% depend on your ability to negotiate and provide strong arguments.
Here, at MindK we take communication with clients and team seriously. Recently, I’ve had a chance to attend a two-day workshop and learn how to be a better communicator. Armed with my own experience as a project manager and the new knowledge, I organized a training session for our team…
…and noted down the most useful insights for you.
Start small [things you can do today]
Communication is one of these things we often do on autopilot. Need a raise? Negotiate a better price with a client? Motivate your team for a new sprint? What you say is crucial. But how you do it is just as important.
With just a few simple tricks, our words could achieve much, much more.
First, use people’s names. This is really obvious, yet we often forget about this rule. Referring to the others by their name makes them more open and reduces stress.
Share personal stories. Revealing details from your personal life puts others at ease and makes them feel like you’ve shared something valuable. They’ll want to repay this favor by becoming more open and agreeable.
Mirror the person you’re talking to. You can often see this happen with loving couples or good friends. If you look at their postures, they will often mirror each other. So if one of them leans forward or crosses their legs, you’ll see the other person doing the same.
This shows a great level of interest between the partners.
When you copy a person’s posture or tone of voice, you unconsciously show that you have much in common. In fact, you two could become good friends. It’s no wonder that the other person will become more relaxed and sympathetic.
You should, however, be careful with mirroring. Adopting a similar pace or tone of voice is OK but copying every physical action will come off as mocking.
And never mirror negative gestures like turning away or crossing your arms.
Radiate calmness and positivity. Just like you can intentionally mirror a person’s posture or tone of voice, they will subconsciously mirror your attitude.
So, if you start a difficult conversation as a beacon of calmness and confidence, they will soon adopt your attitude. The conversation will become more relaxed and you’ll be able to improve team communication.
Make compliments. This is a difficult one. A good compliment can help you win over your colleagues, reduce stress, and create a mood for cooperation.
Your compliments should be sincere and appropriate. It’s better to compliment a person’s inner qualities like kindness or coding skills than focus on appearances.
But here’s the catch. Your compliments should be based on facts. So, it’s a good thing to compliment a developer on meeting the deadlines. After all, they’ve invested lots of time into it.
Now, if you compliment a developer’s English when he or she knows it’s terrible, you’ll come out as insincere or even mocking. Try to avoid such situations. But if you can’t, make it clear that even though they’re terrible, their efforts to improve are noticeable and worthy of compliment.
Be natural. If you never compliment anybody, it would be strange to start praising everybody out of the blue.
A great technique I’ve come to enjoy is the so-called “antithesis compliment”. This means contrasting your praise for the person’s skills with a humble admission of your own inaptitude (e.g. “Wow, your code is so clean. I would’ve never managed to keep it so neat.”)
Just keep your compliments honest, short and sweet.
Source: Sardonic Salad
Learn to listen
This is super-important, especially working in a team. We all believe we have great collaboration skills, when in fact we’re so focused on our own arguments that we often forget to listen.
To see whether you need to improve, here’s a little quiz to test your active listening skills.
Now, count your points. The more you have, the better you’re at listening to others. If you’ve scored more than 62 points, your listening skills are above average. If you have less than 54 points, you have lots of room for improvement.
Here’s what you should do to improve listening skills.
First, show you are interested:
- Lean towards the person if you’re sitting;
- Come closer if you’re standing;
- Maintain eye contact and smile (if appropriate);
- Stay open: don’t cross your arms or legs; and
- Don’t look at your watch.
Now, a few more tips for effective listening:
Allow the person to tell the whole story. Don’t interrupt them and don’t finish their sentences (even if they talk reeeally slowly). Instead, recap what’s been said by paraphrasing them (e.g. “What you’re saying is…” or ” What I’m hearing is…”).
The most powerful words you can say if you really listen is “Tell me more”.
Make them the center of your universe. When we convince ourselves that the conversation will bring us something of great value, we automatically become better listeners. We become more engaged, we interrupt less, and we show more interest.
Imagine yourself in their shoes. Try to feel what they’re feeling at the moment. Are they sad or radiate happiness? Reflect those feelings in your facial expressions. You can also acknowledge them verbally by saying “I can see you’re so sad”, “You must be so happy”, etc.
Engage in active listening. Pay attention to the one who speaks. Make an effort to hear what the person is saying as well as understand their message.
Show that you’re listening: nod in agreement, ask open-ended questions, and never interrupt.
Your questions can sometimes lead the conversation in a completely different direction. If this happens, try to guide it gently back on track with a well-timed comment. And try not to focus on your own arguments while the other person is talking. This will help you avoid lots of communication problems.
Now that you are an active listener, let’s add something to your team communication skills. Obviously listening is not enough, if you need to make people do something for you (or the common project).
Negotiate with confidence
Prepare in advance. This is the most important rule whether you’re asking for a raise or getting ready for big negotiations. You have to consider how others might react to your words and think through the possible counter-arguments.
Show both the pros and cons of your arguments. Present them quickly and without hesitation.
Use Homer’s rule. The effectiveness of your arguments is affected by the order in which you present them. So start with your second strongest argument. This will make the following arguments seem stronger and build trust with your opponents. You should finish the speech with your strongest argument. This is often the point at which an audience will make a decision, so keeping your strongest argument fresh in their mind is a great idea.
And what about weak arguments?
Drop them altogether.
If you don’t have enough talking points, you can paraphrase your strongest arguments. Again, this is only possible if you prepare in advance. Otherwise, your speech may come off as incoherent rambling.
Use Socrate’s rule if you need to convince another person to say “yes”. Experienced salesmen would often make you agree with them a couple of times before they present you their products. They would ask seemingly innocuous questions like “Nice weather today, isn’t it?” or “Gosh, is it still September?” to make you more susceptible to persuasion.
And when you’ve nodded a couple of times, they would offer to buy their product. Agreeing with your companion releases endorphins, so it becomes extremely hard to say “no” to their proposal.
The big guns
These tricks will be useful if have already tried all the rest, but things don’t work out for you.
Make your argument a limited offer. This is another trick from a salesperson’s book. You’ll be more convincing if you highlight how unique and valuable your proposal is. Couple this with a great sense of urgency and you’ve got yourself an irresistible offer.
Bring some support if you know you can’t win an argument by yourself. When your opponent feels outnumbered, he will become less confident and more susceptible to your arguments (this only works if your opponent is alone).
Follow the 120th-minute rule. Now, imagine that you take part in important negotiations. For the first half an hour all the participants are ultra-focused and resistant towards your suggestions. But as the meeting drags on, everybody just starts to drift off. Now almost two hours have passed and everybody is bored to death. They would rather go on a coffee break than listen to your arguments.
This is your moment! There is no better opportunity to present an important proposal, than when everybody’s tired and hungry. So plan your meetings to have the most important decision made around the 120th minute.
These insights can supercharge your business communication skills. They also can help you achieve your goals and resist manipulation.
Like every skill, effective business communication is all about practice and focus. Convince yourself that success is 80% communication and you’ll see better results.
As for casual life conversations, my #1 tip is “Be nice” 🙂
See you in the coming articles, just don’t forget to subscribe to our blog!