Despite doing it every day, we are SO BAD at communication. And it’s because we totally misunderstand how to make it work for us.
With this in mind, I wanted to welcome Joseph McGuire onto my podcast. A communication specialist who trains people to express themselves more clearly and read non-verbal cues more effectively, he’s an expert in his field. A professional who’s intrigued by the decisions humans make and how we interact.
“People are endlessly fascinating. Whether they’re from my culture or other cultures, there’s always so much to learn about how they behave,” Joseph says.
From mastering non-verbal cues to discovering whether we can figure out when someone’s lying, here are Joseph’s most intriguing thoughts on communications.
Good communication has always been vital, says Joseph, but the stress of the Covid-19 pandemic has made it even more important. He explains that the fear expressed by global leaders over the last few years has had a huge impact on our collective mental and emotional health.
“And that applies to people like my mother’s generation – she’s 92 – down to the very young children whose learning has been impacted,” Joseph says.
It’s also had other real-world effects. In a business context we’re currently seeing the Great Resignation, where increasing numbers of people are leaving their jobs due to a lack of motivation and because they feel neglected and ignored, he points out.
When people speak with one another it doesn’t mean they’re communicating in any meaningful sense, according to Joseph. Unless we take into account how the other person receives the information we’re trying to convey, it just becomes oral noise.
Stepping back from this noise and deciding what’s truly important is how we learn to communicate clearly and with intention.
“We need to get out of our heads, into our hearts and open ourselves up to really connecting with other people and bringing out the best in them,” he explains. “That’s really my big purpose when I’m working with other people. If they feel better about themselves, then that to me is success.”
Relationships are suffering, says Joseph. But if you want to bridge the gap with another person, you need to alter your own behaviour – because you can’t change somebody else’s.
If the intention is there, we can adapt the way we act based on the assumption that we want healthy, constructive relationships. A willingness to listen and make sure you understand where other people are coming from is key.
“One of my bad habits was allowing myself to become annoyed and expressing that,” says Joseph. “But this damages relationships, and if we want healthy relationships, we have to be willing to look at ourselves.”
In the podcast, Joseph also shared actionable advice on how you can improve your communications.
Here are his most effective tips.
Many people act in a default setting rather than thinking through why what they’re trying to communicate is important to them or the person they’re speaking with, says Joseph. Before starting a conversation, he explains it’s vital to ask yourself:
Once you have clarity around why the other person should care about what you’re communicating, think about who they are. Figure out how they interpret the world. What do you need to understand so that they receive your message the way you intend it to be received?
“If we have that in place, we have a reasonable chance of communicating clearly,” says Joseph.
If you regularly have contact with the person you’re going to be speaking with, it’s also worth asking yourself these questions:
In a way we have three brains, says Joseph.
“We have the brain, then we have the gut and then our heart. The latter two have been measured to show that we’re sending 400 more signals going up than going down,” he explains. “We need to engage our gut brain, heart brain and head brain so that they’re working in harmony. And then our instinct will tell us a lot. We forget that our whole body is an antenna – it’s picking up signals – but those are often overruled by our brain.”
There’s a vibe we get when we meet people; a vibration, a sense, a resonance, says Joseph. And there’s three basics: it’s either warm, neutral or cold.
“If it’s warm, then by all means engage,” he suggests. “If it’s neutral, proceed slowly. If it’s cold, be very careful. Make sure you’re not engaging emotionally more than absolutely needed. There may be a very good reason why you’re getting that feeling of wariness.”
Those working in tech are prone to this when they’re talking to non-techies, Joseph points out. “But a lot of people use jargon on the assumption that other people automatically understand it. So it’s a failure to take into account who is receiving the message and who they are. Where are they coming from? How do they process and absorb information?”
In business, you’ll often attend presentations, interviews, sales meetings or negotiations where you need to research not just the technicalities and legalities involved but the people you’re meeting, Joseph says.
With this in mind, he shares some useful advice on how to make those first impressions count.
“There’s an old Benjamin Franklin saying: fail to prepare and you prepare to fail,” says Joseph. “So, if we don’t take into account who our audience is, we may be talking at them and just making noise as opposed to communicating effectively. Preparation is essential.”
There’s so much information available online to tap into, whether it’s the person’s website or LinkedIn page. Or you can ask mutual acquaintances to give you the lowdown.
While researching, ask yourself:
After a business meeting, it’s worth asking yourself these questions:
“They’re very simple clues,” says Joseph.
He also suggests taking into account the variable dimension by ticking off these points:
Those parts are so often neglected, says Joseph, adding that it’s also important to assess the other person’s body language.
“Ideally you want somebody to sit forward to denote that they’re going to agree. If you’re having a discussion and somebody sits back, they’re less likely to agree,” he explains.
Voila: a masterclass in how to communicate better. What do you think about Joseph’s tips? Would you use them at work or in your business? Let me know on LinkedIn or Instagram. And listen to the podcast for more ways to tackle the communication conundrum!
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