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A Look at Some of the Most Important Communication Skills for Almost Any Situation

Andres Lares

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When people are talking about successful people, others commonly speculate on how they achieved that success. Perhaps they were intelligent. They were innovative. They had the right connections or the right idea at the right time. Maybe they were just plain lucky. One of the most common descriptions of a successful individual, though, is that they are “great communicators.”

At Shapiro Negotiations, we talk a lot about developing an ability to communicate and even offer communication training. We can show you (and your team) how to be a better negotiator, a better salesman, a better communicator. But what does great communication really entail? What skills are involved in communicating clearly and effectively with someone, particularly with those who may not want to hear what you have to say?

In the following post, we’ll look into several important skills SNI can help you and your team to develop to improve your communications, both internally and externally.

 

1. Listening

Arguably the most important skill to acquire when you’re learning how to communicate well is how to be a good listener. And yet some people simply refuse to do it. People focus so intently on being heard and understood that they are simply incapable of understanding anyone else. Most people wait for their turn to talk rather than truly listen.

In the words of James Cash Penney, founder of the well-known J. C. Penney chain of department stores, “The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.” The first step in communication is for both parties to be speaking the same language. In order to do that, you need to be able to listen to and understand what the other person is saying. Anything else is just two strangers who may as well be shouting nonsense at each other, for all the good it will do.

When you listen to another person, that person will take notice. Attempting to understand what someone else wants grants them validation, permitting them to view you as a potential ally rather than an adversary. Suddenly, you aren’t two people fighting for opposing goals; you are two people who are working together to find an ideal situation for everyone involved.

 

2. Empathy

In almost any environment, you’re going to come across people you may not agree with. It’s just the way human interaction goes. Fortunately, you don’t have to agree with everyone on every single matter.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t at least try to understand and respect other people’s opinions and points of view. This ties back into listening to the other person, and perhaps a step beyond. Hear what they other person is saying. Try to look beyond the words they are saying and find the meaning behind those words. Try to recognize what their reasons are for their belief. You don’t need to share the belief, but understanding from where their position stems will give you significant insight into how to keep the conversation civil and even productive.

Phrases like “I understand where you’re coming from” can demonstrate that you’re actively paying attention to the things the other person is saying. Actively acknowledge the emotions that the other party is feeling and you can reinforce the relationship you have been building.

The ability to discern and experience another person’s emotions will grant you the unique perspective of understanding both sides of the discussion. By seeing where both sides are coming from, you will be better able to predict where their goals intersect and guide the conversation to a successful solution.

 

3. Translation

While most of what we’ve discussed up to this point deals with understanding other people and discerning exactly what they want, it’s just as important to be able to make yourself understood. In order to be understood, you have to be able to take information and translate it into words and terminology familiar to someone else.

For example, a college professor has typically been studying his subject matter for years, if not decades. He understands the reasons behind all of the information he is teaching his students. He could take complex data and use it to analyze and predict results from future experiments.

His students, on the other hand, are new to the subject. They don’t have the benefit of his experience in his field or of his years of research. They don’t have the context he has gained over time as he has been exposed to his material. To get through to them, he has to figure out how to explain the material to them in words that they will understand.

The same is true in almost any sort of interaction. People live such radically different lives that some experiences familiar to one person might be completely foreign to another. Figuring out what words, phrases, or contexts will resonate with the other party will enable you to get your point across and be understood.

 

4. Clarity

Clarity is the ability to speak in such a way that people understand your meaning. “Say what you mean, and mean what you say,” as the old adage directs. Speak simply, speak clearly, and say exactly what you intend. Speaking in a roundabout fashion can be off-putting for several reasons, any of which can bring a negotiation to a crashing halt.

People have notoriously short attention spans. Most people are willing to grant a little bit of leeway, but if you drag on, eventually they’re just going to tune you out. You may be an expert on your subject material, but it won’t matter. If no one is listening, then does it really make a difference anymore what you say?

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you are not precise or seem to talk in circles, it can discourage people from trusting you. If it’s difficult to make out what you’re saying, it may seem like you’re hiding something. If you are able to boil down a complicated concept into just a few words, on the other hand, it is a good sign that you really know what you’re talking about.

 

5. Body Language

The words you say to other people are only a portion of the way you communicate with them. The way you hold yourself, the way you move, where you look, and even the tone of your voice—all of these can contribute to the way your message is received. You may have had a conversation in the past where an upset party snapped, “It’s not what you said. It’s how you said it!” Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, proposes that there are three elements that account for how positively people respond to someone else’s communication. Only 7 percent of the response is based upon the other person’s words, while 38 percent is based on their tone of voice, and the remaining 55 percent is based on body language.

When interacting with others, be aware of the subtle signals you may be sending to people. Avoiding eye contact gives off a sense that you are either uninterested or are hiding something. Staring, on the other hand, can make people uncomfortable. Standing too closes seems overly aggressive, while turning your body away from the other person can make you seem aloof.

By presenting yourself in a more open fashion, you can encourage others to let down their guards a little bit and be more open with you in return. Pay attention to your hand gestures, whether or not your arms are crossed, even the subtle noises you make in acknowledgment of what someone else has said.

At the same time, keep an eye on how other people are responding to what you say. If they seem to be losing interest or becoming defensive, it may be time to rethink your strategy. If they are not looking you in the eye, they may be uncomfortable. Try not to make quick assumptions based on body language, because it can be very easy to misinterpret; however, be aware of it as you continue your conversation.

 

6. Interpersonal Connection

Interpersonal connection involves the ability to forge common bonds with others. It doesn’t always need to include a clear goal; sometimes, connecting for connection’s sake can have the biggest payoff in the end. Find a common link with the other person, but don’t be invasive or fake. Get to know them, and help them get to know you.

Show that you have value. Give them a reason to trust what you’re saying. Any connection you build, even one that seems unimportant in the moment,  could lead to other opportunities down the line.

Try to find something in common with the other person, something you can connect over. What similarities do you share? Interests? Histories? Find some way to connect.

 

7. Diplomacy

Daniele Varè, an Italian diplomat and author, once wrote that “diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” It is a way of guiding the conversation in a particular direction without putting the other person on the defensive. There is a delicate balancing act involved in making sure that all points are heard and acknowledged while no feelings are hurt.

If you accidentally offend someone, diplomacy also involves the ability to defuse a potentially volatile situation. Validate the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Even if you don’t agree with them, acknowledging those feelings can go a long way. People want to be understood, and if you try to push them in a certain direction without putting in the work to understand them, it can lead them to become obstinate and refuse to work with you.

Sometimes, diplomacy involves moving the discussion to a later time. If the situation has already become intense, it may be best for everyone involved to take a break and reconvene at a later time. Depending on the situation, this break could be as long as a week or two or as short as five minutes. The important part is that everyone has the opportunity to process their emotions and return when they are all calm. Remain non-confrontational throughout the process, and take care to avoid accusatory or emotionally-charged phrases like “You’ve got to be kidding!” or “There’s no way!” Simply saying “No,” can convey the same information without putting the other party on edge.

 

8. Honesty

We’ve placed this skill last, but that certainly doesn’t mean it is the least important. Honesty is at the heart of all productive communication. And while honesty may not necessarily seem like a skill at first, it is actually crucial to develop it in your communication.

If you are dishonest with someone, whether that person is a coworker, a boss, someone with whom you do business, or a close personal relationship, it breeds anxiety in you and distrust from others.

While it may sometimes be tempting to be dishonest with others in order to gain an advantage, any benefit that comes of it will be temporary at best. In the long term, dishonesty will burn bridges behind you and drag your reputation through the mud.

If you build a reputation for being honest, though, even in situations where it might not benefit you, you will build goodwill among those you know, and eventually it can even spread to people you have never met. If you are honest, the relationships you build will be on firmer ground, and any agreements you have with others will be more likely to stand.

At Shapiro Negotiations, we recognize just how important it is to be able to communicate well. It’s the basis on which all relationships stand. The ability to express yourself clearly and understand what others are saying will help you to build stronger relationships, both personal and in the workplace.

One last key tip when it comes to communicating with others: respect. Respect the people with whom you are interacting. Recognize that, while their histories and viewpoints may differ from yours, that doesn’t make them any less valid. Respect the businesses with whom you are doing business. The fact that you are negotiating with them is evidence that they have something that you want, which means there are probably several things you could stand to learn from them.

And, of course, respect yourself. Respect yourself to be honest in the ways you interact with people. Respect yourself to be willing to understand the reasons behind your viewpoints and opinions. Respect yourself enough to figure out more than one way to get your point across so that you can communicate with a wide variety of people. And respect yourself to be willing to continue to grow and improve.

We at Shapiro Negotiations can give you and your team the training you need to improve your communication skills and build stronger relationships with others. For more information, fill out the form below. We’d love to work with you.

 




How to Influence Without Being Pushy

Andres Lares

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Sometimes leads are already interested before you start your pitch, but how you attempt to influence them will make or break the deal. There’s a big difference between influencing and selling – your audience is less likely to take your words to heart if you come off as pushy, rehearsed, or “salesy.”

When it comes to influencing people, a few key strategies will lead you to more effective interactions with more positive results. Keep the following in mind.

 

Build Trust

When you have rapport with other people, it’s easier to speak with them. You need to be able to reach people on a personal level while staying professional. Carefully listen to their concerns and address them fully. Try to take your resolution a step beyond what they may expect from you to show them you are acting with their best interests in mind. Find common ground and work from there. You cannot force people to do things. Instead, you should try to persuade them to want what you want.

 

Focus on Positives

Of course, you want to be able to relate to the other party if you want them to see things your way, but it’s important to stick to your guns while staying positive. Instead of sympathizing with their complaints, get them to focus on the positive aspects of your discussion. Demonstrate value and emphasize how they will benefit from the decision you want them to make.

 

Speak Naturally

You may work on your speaking technique in private, but it’s important to be prepared without sounding rehearsed. If you want to influence people, the number one way to fail is to to be unprepared and not know what you are trying to say or sound like you’re selling something or reading from a script. Speak as you would in any other conversation (again, remember to stick to your professional boundaries) and be relaxed. Pay close attention to body language – both the other party’s and your own. Don’t come off as rigid, closed-off, or unapproachable. People will be more willing to converse and be influenced if it feels natural.

 

Generate Enthusiasm

One of the best methods of influencing others to do what you want is to demonstrate what an amazing opportunity they have and make them excited to see it happen. Generating energy and enthusiasm is a great way to get others on board with your vision and get them to see things from your perspective.

 

Be Adaptable

Your conversation style needs to be flexible – you can’t speak with everyone in the same way, and every interaction has unique factors that you need to consider. This is the biggest reason that maintaining a natural demeanor is important – when you lock yourself into a routine, it becomes much harder to deal with the unexpected. To influence the other party, you need to be on your toes and ready to handle any question or concern they have. .

Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for your next major conversation. Remember that influencing is all about getting other people to want what you want – not hammering them until they see things your way.

The Impact of Body Language in Negotiations

Andres Lares

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Whether you are negotiating for a raise, time off, or the sale of a new product, every word and movement in a negotiation is crucial. Most people know to choose their words carefully while negotiating, but body language is often forgotten. The way we toss our head, flail our hands and crisscross our legs all influence negotiations in distinctive ways, so using the right body language is vital to success.

 

Copycat for Success

Researchers often find that the longer two people are in the same room, the more they mimic each other’s body language and gestures. For example, you might come into your supervisor’s office to negotiate a raise and find that after twenty minutes, you’re both leaning back with your legs crossed. Most people feel silly when they realize this is happening or worry that mimicry will make them look like they are brownnosing, so they stop doing it.

Researchers, however, tend to agree that mimicry or mirroring is positive. Mimicking someone else’s body language or gestures, even unconsciously, shows a desire to build rapport. Additionally, most people find that clients who mimic them are more persuasive and honest than those who do not.

 

Stay Constructive

If you negotiate frequently, chances are you will eventually come across someone who you find challenging to converse with. This person may ask you the same type of questions over and over. He or she may pronounce a common word in a way that annoys you or unconsciously drum his or her fingers on the table. No matter the behavior, it can be difficult to hide your irritation.

Researchers have performed studies to determine whether people can hide their reactions to emotionally charged images. The studies found that although discomfort is difficult to hide, untrained observers do not often detect it. In other words, your client may not realize his finger-drumming distracts you, or your boss may not realize you’re nervous during a meeting. That being said, experts recommend that you stay as constructive as possible. Use neutral body language, and phrase criticisms constructively.

 

Have a Handshake

For decades, experts have advised employees to maintain a firm, warm handshake. While firm handshakes are still preferable, handshakes of any kind make people feel comfortable and respected. If you can’t grip someone’s hand as firmly as a colleague, or if your hands are naturally cold, don’t despair. The fact that you made the gesture will show the other person you are serious about negotiations and care what they have to say.

 

Keep Eye Contact

Eye contact is difficult for many people. In fact, some people from countries outside the US may find it offensive. However, good eye contact is key for US and Canadian negotiations. Maintain it to show your honesty and interest in the other person. Try not stare or focus too long on one point. This can be interpreted as aggression. Feel free to look away while thinking or deciding how to word something. If you naturally have trouble with eye contact – for example, you are from a culture that frowns on it – let the other person know. That way, he or she won’t assume you’re being evasive.

 

If you would like more tips, you can visit us online to find out about negotiation training.

What Does Your Body Language Say about You?

Andres Lares

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There are tons of different studies, statistics, and anecdotal lessons on the emotive impact of body language. According to the overwhelming majority of research and statistics,  body language makes up the largest portion of communication. Most studies show that roughly 70% of communication doesn’t even come out of a person’s mouth, but through their body. What’s interesting is that body language is really just communicating what the mind is really thinking. The body normally responds to the subconscious mind and innately mirrors those conditions in order to communicate what is going on internally. There are plenty of people who write off the power of body language and prefer to listen purely to what a person is saying alone. However, a person has time to think and construct their sentences. They are able to work more out of their ego and shut their mouths if they don’t want to talk. However, it is virtually impossible for a person to shut down their body language without communicating zombie-like behavior. Even when people are quietly listening to someone else in a conversation, they are still communicating with their body language, demeanor and facial expressions. This type of non-verbal communication happens whether they want it to or not. For this reason, many people are fascinated with mastering the interpretation of body language. This is also the reason why many women read tons of articles about romantic body language because they want to know what their men are truly thinking. When people are operating in a business setting, body language is incredibly important because it can play a major role in whether a person experiences success or not. For the business setting, there are two major types of body language: strong and weak. This two types communicate the mind, and the emotional state of the person speaking.

Body Language-01

 

Strong Body Language

Strong body language is characterized by a few different components. When a person imagines a symbol of strength, it isn’t difficult to think of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. They are visibly strong with large, lean muscular builds. They are able to spread their arms and defy gravity and space. They each maintain their own presence and make it clear when they enter a room. The majority of these characteristics are communicated on the pages of comic books through depictions of strong body language. In the business setting, people with strong body language usually emit a palpable presence. Whether they are short or tall, they seem to take up space in the room. They will tend to sit in the front and center of a room, and during a discussion, they are the ones most likely to visibly assert themselves and dominate the conversation. When a person with strong body language enters the room, people take notice. People with strong body language have great posture. They stand with their shoulders back and keep their head up. They usually use their hands for gestures and can command control of the room through engaging body language during a discussion. During a business meeting that involves negotiation, strong body language is vital because strength communicates confidence and a person’s ability to win an argument. People are more likely to trust a strong mind and not a weak one.

 

Body Language-02

 

Weak Body Language

Weak body language obviously communicates the exact opposite of its counterpart. Instead of looking like some of the great superheroes, people with weak body language end up mirroring turtles. They are seen mimicking symbols of frailty. People who exude weak body language often shrink in a room. They are much more inclined to pull their bodies close to themselves and take up as little space as possible. They try their best to make sure they’re not seen or heard. They also tend to recluse and disengage during a conversation. They may touch their necks and pull their arms closer to their bodies. These non-verbal cues send the message that a person prefers to be less engaged and is intimidated in a specific setting. People with weak body language also don’t want to sit in an area that will draw attention. They prefer to sit in the corners and if they have a point during a discussion, it is very difficult for them to assert themselves over others. When they are looking to be called on in a classroom setting, they may raise their hands slightly, but the gesture is so small that it can easily go unnoticed by a professor or fellow classmates. The weak body language communicates a person’s lack of confidence in their ability to eloquently deliver their perspective to their colleagues.

 

Body Language-03

 

Fake It Until You Become It

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy delivered an excellent presentation at TED Global where she discussed the power of body language on success. She noted that in corporate settings, the majority of people who communicate powerful body language are usually men. Women are more likely to display weak body language. Women are often cast in social settings as the weaker sex, so there’s no surprise that this translates into business settings. As a woman of influence, she encourages women (and men) to learn to change their mindset in order to display powerful body language. The mind is so powerful because a person’s thoughts become their actions. Cuddy suggests a few practices to help transform the mind for success. She encourages the practice of power poses and positive affirmations. Power poses include stances with hands on hips with feet firmly planted in the ground or arms in the air as if they’re arriving at the finish line of a marathon. For example, a person who is going on a major job interview should prepare to get there a few minutes earlier than expected. Upon arriving at the building, a person should go to a private bathroom stall and give themselves a two-minute pep talk. While they mentally strengthen themselves, they should also stand in the power poses. This may sound bizarre, but her research proved that these tactics can literally help to change the trajectory of an interview.

Even though it may feel a bit silly to practice the poses and techniques, it is important to continue to practice them until it feels less awkward. These strategies can subliminally change the mind and encourage a person to begin thinking powerfully. Once a person’s mind is powerful, their body language will follow suit! So, strike a pose!

6 Body Language Tips for Negotiations

Andres Lares

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  • Improve your standing and influence at the next round of negotiations!

Experienced negotiators know the words a person says around the negotiation table are far less important than how those words are delivered. They recognize that body language can play a huge role in how negotiations go, and have noted that skilled negotiators work hard to present a confident, charismatic picture. People are hardwired to react to visual cues, and understanding how to appear confident and strong goes a long way in negotiation.

Some visual cues have become well known, such as crossed arms indicating a closed-off person. A few of the other cues that may prove useful in negotiations are listed and explained in more detail below:

  • Stand up straight and take up space. 

Keeping your back straight and your head up is the best way to send a message of self-assurance and alertness. By taking up space, you send a message of authority and power to those around you. Learning to project authority is an important part of negotiation training. While standing or giving a presentation, move around to make your physical presence larger and keep your stance wide while standing still.

  • Keep a wide stance

Keeping your feet spread apart and your body weight centered will give others the impression of your power and confidence. You will appear solid and steady, and no matter the situation, others will perceive you as being at ease.

  • Maintain eye contact 

While too much eye contact can be seen as somewhat unnerving, it is always better to make frequent and intentional eye contact with your audience. Whether negotiating with a group of people or only one person, make and keep eye contact, especially when explaining key issues or important points.

  • Use positive hand gestures 

Most people, when giving a presentation or explaining an issue, use their hands to illustrate the point. Whether this is by keeping track of listed points by counting them on their fingers or by using hand motions to simulate the actions of what is being discussed, hand movements are often underappreciated.

When negotiating, it is important to use positive hand gestures while eschewing any nervous ticks or habitual hand movements that take away from your power image. For example, folding your hands together in a pleading fashion is a nervous habit some employ to stop their hands from shaking. Steepling your fingers, however, sends the message that what you are about to say is of vast importance, and makes you seem more calm and collected.

  • Smile 

Smiling is the easiest way to put another person at ease and will often make you more memorable in a positive light. This is because smiling at a person usually leads to their smiling back at you, and the act of smiling often triggers happy feelings. By smiling at someone you can make them feel happy, which will in turn cause them to associate those happy feelings with seeing you.

  • Lower your vocal pitch

People with higher pitched voices may often be seen as more nervous and less powerful than those who speak in a lower register, and are thus viewed as less empathetic and not as trustworthy. Consider, for example, the voice of James Earl Jones. Any character played by him in film instantly becomes viewed as a powerful force with which to be reckoned.

By employing these non-verbal cues, you will improve your standing and influence at the next round of negotiations. You can quickly transform from a mere observer of negotiations to the most powerful person in the room based simply on your body language.