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Katy Kvalvik


Five Skills to Master High-Stakes Communication

Effective communication is foundational for effective leadership

Published: Thursday, July 2, 2020 - 12:02

Communication is not only a necessary skill—it can be the difference between getting the contract, saving your company millions, and ultimate workplace harmony.

To be an effective leader, you must be an effective communicator. To be an effective communicator, you must believe in the value of every conversation. Improving the way you communicate can evoke a greater connection in all of your personal relationships and have a positive impact on your professional interactions. According to a new worldwide survey, communication is one of the most highly prized soft skills for talent today.

When the stakes are high, solidify your role as a team player, problem-solver, or indispensable leader by honing these five essential communication skills.

Listen and be present

To communicate effectively, it is important that you have genuine respect for the other person’s view of the world. All people have different ways of experiencing life and the world around them (different beliefs, values, filters). By listening deeply in order to understand and respect these differences instead of judging, better and more efficient communication will occur. Effective, deep listening promotes better understanding, reduces conflict, and enhances relationships.

You can improve your listening skills by practicing objective-active and intuitive listening. Objective-active listening is being in the moment and completely focused on the other person. You’re getting the facts vs. getting all the details of a subjective story. It’s very effective for problem-solving. Using it in a professional environment helps the listener see facts clearly and arrive at timely, accurate solutions that maximize results.

Intuitive listening means “reading between the lines” and tuning in to the speaker’s underlying deeper structures of meaning. It’s about being completely present in the moment, using all your senses, and being acutely aware of nonverbal communication as well. One of the greatest benefits of intuitive listening is that you can better understand the person you’re listening to and create a deeper connection. This allows you to get to the heart of the matter or solve the problem at hand more quickly.

Understand nonverbal communication

People have different communication styles, and it’s crucial to meet people where they understand and communicate best. Nonverbal communication is how you connect with others through body language, gestures, or voice pitch. One study found that 93 percent of all communication occurs nonverbally. Most people don’t realize that our nonverbal communication can be more meaningful than the words we use because it is a very important component for building rapport.

Build rapport

Rapport is a friendly, harmonious relationship that makes communication possible or easy—especially  a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy. One way to build rapport with others is to become a master at understanding and effectively using nonverbal communication. Something as simple as nodding your head when you agree with someone’s point on a topic or making eye contact with various members of a group while giving a presentation will help you build trust and connection.

In a professional setting, it is crucial to be conscious of your gestures and posture during interactions. Sitting up straight during a meeting with a team member or crossing your arms during an uncomfortable confrontation signals to someone if you are open or closed off to receiving genuine connection. When it comes to verbal communication in the workplace, two of the most important factors to consider are tonality and volume. The best communicators have self-awareness surrounding these things and are both flexible and adaptable. That means they can quickly adjust how loud, soft, fast, or slow they’re talking in order to conform to or harmonize with the people to whom they’re speaking.

Ask better questions

The breakdown in communication that causes friction in the workplace is often the result of mismanaged expectations or, simply put, miscommunication. Studies show miscommunication costs corporations nearly $37 billion per year.

One of the best ways to avoid or overcome miscommunication is to ask better questions. Asking open-ended or “what” and “how” questions can help you learn and better understand the meaning behind someone’s words, and properly set or fulfill their expectations. Examples of these types of questions are “What do you mean by that?”, “Can you give me a specific example?”, or “How is that important to you?” Most of our daily conversations are kept at a surface level. Asking these open-ended questions to gather more information about a person’s beliefs and values not only will allow you to meet that person where he is and better prevent miscommunication, it will also allow you to connect with him on a deeper, more personal level, navigate the interaction more authentically, and move the conversation forward.

Hone your internal and external awareness

People might not remember every detail of what you said or what the conversation was about, but they will remember how you made them feel. Practice being present in the moment: elongate your breath and see the whole picture of how your words, actions, listening style, and communication style impact others. That impact will extend beyond your meetings, the conference room, and even your industry to have a ripple effect through all areas of your life.

Are you having the kind of impact you want within your organization? If not, revisit these skills to see where you might improve.

First published June 15, 2020, on the thoughtLEADERS blog.


About The Author

Katy Kvalvik’s picture

Katy Kvalvik

Katy Kvalvik is the creator of the Harmony Method—a blueprint for work-life harmony—and the founder of Southwestern Empowerment, a division of Southwestern Consulting. Kvalvik has been inspiring women and men all over the world to be empowered, lead their best lives, and achieve optimal, lasting results since 2009.