In growing your business, how you communicate under pressure can make or break your progress, as well as your relationship with the team and outside constituents.
In my experience as a mentor and consultant, it is not just the words, but also your tone, approach, body language, and the context in which you choose to engage that can make all the difference.
Knowing what to say and when to say it have always been key in my own recommendations, but I was impressed the other reminders imbedded in a list of top priorities from a new book, Bridge the Gap, by Jenifer Edwards and Katie McCleary. These authors bring a much broader perspective to the table, based on their own experiences as leadership advisors and trainers.
I agree with their top ten pro-communication reminders for pressure situations, which I will paraphrase here, adding my own insights:
1. Be brief and brilliant, and avoid extraneous branches.
Less is more. Extra words and the urge to explore side roads will destroy more connections than you solidify. You have to finish a point, but don’t hammer it into pulp. Use simple words and sentences, and try to make a full circle, to put a closing summary on your thoughts.
2. A smile goes a long way toward building connections.
Keep your shoulders relaxed and you jaw loose. Most experts suggest that 60 percent or more of all communication is body language, so make yours friendly and inviting. I can assure you from experience that an unfriendly approach is the quickest way to jeopardize any negotiation or request.
3. Focus on solutions and positives, rather than problems.
It’s time for all of us to challenge the current cultural need to lead with problems, gripes, and complaints. Instead, be sure to highlight first what is working well, solutions, and successes. Ask for help and support, rather than appearing to issue orders and assign blame.
4. Don’t interrupt or attempt to talk over other people.
Resist the urge to jump in, take control, and speak your piece. Effective communication only occurs when everyone feels they are equal contributors, without having to allow for rank and privilege. In fact, the most effective business leaders let others speak first, and respect all input as equal.
5. Communicate in the context of the relevant culture.
Always use words and stories that resonate with the generation and audience you are working with. People can’t agree with what they don’t understand, and their trust and respect for you as a leader will directly relate to their ability to feel a sense of commonality with the image you project.
6. Use short-story examples to make or solidify a point.
Stories are the most effective way to communicate an abstract or unfamiliar idea. Just make sure you have a clear anchor in your story that can land well, and clearly make your point. Too often, leaders start telling stories that branch off in directions that they were never meant to go.
7. Do your processing and thinking before talking.
Thinking out loud is often perceived as rambling, and may hurt your credibility you in relationships where you are not close with the other person. Be sure to communicate only your best, most confident, and curious nuggets in the actual discussion. Always do your homework before talking.
8. Use silence and listening as your secret weapons.
There is no benefit to be gained for you to do all the talking and explaining. Let other people do much of the work. Indeed, you always learn more by listening than by talking. Make sure your silence isn’t empty by staying actively attentive. This will get people’s respect and help you stay on point.
9. Practice humility, and resist being a showoff.
Humbleness in business settings is attractive and powerful, even if you know the answer, the path, and the solution. Give your team or your customer a chance to offer a solution that you can openly agree with and support. The result is a win-win situation, which will work to your benefit in the future.
10. Build more trust and respect by celebrating others.
Always make an effort to see others in complimentary ways that might otherwise go unnoticed. Starting with what is going right with someone is a beautiful way to open a conversation, and solidify your position in follow-on talks. It also leads to a culture of honesty and psychological safety.
Communicating effectively under pressure is a key skill needed by every business owner to be a leader.
If you master this ability, it will help you to maintain composure, think clearly and make decisions during a crisis, as well as the good times. The result is more success and satisfaction for you, as well as your customers and your constituents.
This post is written by Martin Zwilling.