The role of communication is not just to disseminate information. It is to engage other people by encouraging them to talk and, more importantly, listening to what they say. A good listener can benefit in a myriad of ways, including getting access to fresh ideas, learning from new perspectives, and experiencing a sense of partnership. The people being listened to feel that their ideas are worthy, and see they have value to the enterprise. Most importantly, they reciprocate the respect they get.
To be the best possible listener giving people face time instead of relying exclusively on email or other impersonal vehicles. In addition, asking lots of questions can encourage a thoughtful and productive conversation, as does candor about issues that are unclear or contentious. By seeking to understand where people are coming from and showing a real interest in their opinions, good listeners reinforce their reputations for authenticity, caring, and respect.
Speaking and communication skills can also be reputation boosters. When describing a success, for example, it is helpful to name individuals who were instrumental in achieving it, and use positively charged words like “courage” and “determination.” There is no need to shy away from emotion or passion; in fact, speaking from the heart is one of the best ways to reach out to others and to engage an audience. Body language counts too. Hand gestures, eye movements, and posture can communicate strength, sincerity, honesty, and commitment.
In most organizations, formal meetings are the most frequent forums for displaying positive character traits and engaging constructively with others. It is for this reason that it is critical to prepare thoroughly for every encounter, working through specific issues in advance to avoid surprises or confusion, and prepare significantly with a clear point of view. Effective communication in meetings contributes significantly to a reputation for thoughtfulness and credibility.
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