As humans, we spend our lives communicating with those around us. As leaders we are expected to lead our staff and members by using thoughtful communication to convey messaging that is easy to understand, allays concerns, and is constructive in nature. The most effective way to communicate is to keep in mind who you are communicating with—in other words, know your audience! At RCS, one of our most popular trainings; both in-person and on RCSU is Practicing Positive Communication because it teaches how to use productive, thoughtful and positive communication skills in all relationships – personal or professional.
A recent article by Dr David R. Novak confirmed a few simple communication strategies. It doesn’t matter if your audience is one person or a thousand, it’s extremely important to know your audience and more often than not, we neglect to consider our audience in small group or individual settings. If we reframe our thinking to consider all the audiences that we as leaders encounter, we can form deeper connections, ultimately strengthening our relationships with others. Here’s how:
Personalize Your Message
The key to delivering excellent experiences to members, customers, and employees (as our internal customers) is through personalization. Novak suggests proactively seeking to meet the needs of the people with whom you are communicating—the simplest way to do that is to listen first! Listening to others also makes them valued and important, not just understood. What is your audience is really seeking from you—are they looking for a solution to a problem, to provide constructive feedback or are they looking for a sounding board to bounce ideas off? Perhaps they are simply seeking a safe space to vent.
Where Do We Find Common Ground?
We are more alike than we are different, and the most effective communicators seek to find points of connection with their audience. Points of connection are classified as things such as shared interests, emotions, or stories. Stories draw people in and hook onto others through the shared experience of life. As you strive to improve your communication skills, make an effort to find common interest as a point of connecting. Topics around travel, weather, sports, family or music usually result in shared interests.
It’s Not About You
Keep in mind that when you’re communicating with others, to set your own ego aside and work on empathizing with the person or persons in front of you - take in the perspective of your audience and what is influencing their perception. The most effective communicators realize that communication is a shared experience – empathy brings not only understanding, but shared feelings, letting a true connection happen. Set aside your preconceived notions of your audience and seek to understand rather than insert yourself into the narrative or worse, project your own thoughts or feelings onto them.
Knowing your audience takes effort but it’s worth it. Trying to know your audience shows a respect for them—for their time, their needs, their challenges. Much of knowing your audience is taking the time to care about taking the time to see the world through his/her eyes and seeking to understand their world. Once you do, you can tailor your message, communication style and personalization to them, specifically.
Sometimes, managers speak to everyone the same – from their employees to their peers, to their supervisor to a board member or owner. Those are four distinct audiences, and all deserve to have communications customized in a way that shows you understand the person’s perspective and needs and opens the door for increased connection. Another quick exercise to determine if you have your eye on the audience or if you are focused on yourself is to monitor your written communications to them. Do you write, “I want to talk to you” or “I’d like you to do X,Y,Z” or do you offer something that specifically fits their needs such as “As you search for time to do more with less, would you like to consider a solution that may help?” Monitor your emails – does every paragraph begin with “I” or focus on your needs only. If it does, that’s a good starting point to put forth the effort in to know your audience and adjust your communications accordingly.
With all that is going on in the world, the time to practice empathy and understanding is now. One small change in communications between people can drastically improve the relationship and bring more clarity to a situation. It’s so worth it!