When someone is in a communication exchange with you, what's their experience? Do they feel heard, valued, appreciated, inspired and energised?
Or do they sometimes feel protective, confused, unheard, unsure and unmoved?
Communication Intelligence (CI) originally related to the quality of data captured from communication. But, for me, the term speaks directly to our skills and ability in what we bring to communication.
Most of our communication happens by default. When we arise in the morning, we say some version of the same thing to our partner or kids, when we arrive at our workplace, it's the usual "Morning, how're you? “...”Good thanks, you?"
Not the most captivating interactions. So, what makes us think that when we need people to listen they will be interested in what we have to say? Aren't they listening to us in the same way we listen to them?
Or do we rely on authority, deciding at some level that our people should be listening, conveniently excusing us from the responsibility of becoming better communicators?
MUSCLES, BRAINS, HEARTS
Dame Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, said...
"In the past jobs were about muscles, now they're about brains, but in the future, they'll be about the heart."
She also says that even though Japan is developing robots as companions to the elderly, the breadth and depth of skills of emotional intelligence cannot be substituted by a robot.
The question that comes to mind, then, is why are we humans behaving like robots when we interact with each other? Rigid, driven to a task, repeating ourselves the same way over and over when something goes wrong.
Why do we hide behind our over-prepared presentations and well-documented analysis, when what might actually be required is the ability to be dynamic and flexible to elicit the very best from people.
GAPS IN COMMUNICATION INTELLIGENCE
Here are some signs you may have gaps in your Communication Intelligence:
- Consistently speaking over the top of people
- Unmoving from a pre-prepared script even when its obvious people are disengaging
- Viewing communication as a one-way street
- Asking questions but not listening to the response
- Answering the question, you think has been asked rather than the one that has
- Wanting to speak up but continually finding reasons not to
- Pretending you're listening but really distracted or defensive
- Being unaware, and unwilling to be responsible for, the potential impact on people or results, of your energy, tone and body language.
Gaps in Communication Intelligence can be a personal blind spot, haven't we all done at least one of the above? So, if we're judging another for behaving in any one of these ways, that may be a CI gap as well!
Becoming a more intelligent communicator begins with acknowledging that everyone sees the world differently and therefore what empowers one person, may disconnect or disempower another.
BECOME AN INTELLIGENT COMMUNICATOR
Here are a few ideas if you're interested in strengthening your Communication Intelligence:
1. If you're good at giving advice. Next time stop talking, pause and just wait. Allow some space for new ideas, contrary to what your ego tells you, you don't need to fill the silence, have all the answers or provide all the solutions.
2. Ask someone what kind of communication supports them. Do they respond better to direct feedback or lots of reassurance, independence or collaborative decision-making? Understand your own style and then learn to make small adaptations - you'll be delighted with how much further people want to go when they feel like you get them.
3. When someone asks for your time and you choose to give it, put everything else down - phones, computer, reports, coffee (ok this one just for a second), your agenda, and...
L I S T E N.
4. Listen for the meaning - don't be too quick to react or respond to someone's words. Consider the thinking that might be driving what they're saying - are they fearful, embarrassed, resentful, feeling like they don't belong? Listening for the meaning can provide you with much more information that will assist you in empowering them. Studying listening for 3 years taught me that we're mostly really bad at it. High quality listening is not a passive act, it's an intentional skill that when learned and executed well builds connection, trust and engagement quickly. It's a must-have for every leader.
5. Find just one higher-quality question to ask in every conversation you have. Just one. And notice what happens.
It's easy to assume we're good communicators, I mean we do it all day every day. But just because we know how to talk, doesn't mean we have strong Communication Intelligence.
It's like assuming we can ice-skate because we can walk. The two seem related but it takes a dedicated skill set, disciplined practice and lots of falling and correcting to make it seem so effortless. And whether an ice-skating fan or not, isn't it mesmerising to see the elite in effortless action.