Closeness-Communication Bias

Highly successful leaders sometimes struggle to communicate with people that they know well. This error is not prevalent while talking to strangers, and is called the Closeness-Communication Bias, and is due to an illusion of insight while communicating with friends or close colleagues.

There are certain strategies that leaders and managers can apply to improve their communication effectiveness.

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Why even successful leaders struggle to communicate

weforum.org

George Bernard Shaw

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

While speaking to groups, a leader tends to be formal, and is distracted by the large crowd, failing to create a deep level of intimacy.

The trick to effective communication is to deliver the message as if one is talking to an individual. This makes the speech emotionally genuine, with each listener able to grasp the energy and attention, as they would if it was a one-on-one communication.

An effective communicator needs to mould the message to ensure (sometimes in real time) it is listened to.

Make sure people are not rushed into an already made decision, and the main point is not put forth as a blunt statement. A meaningful dialogue with intelligent questions should be encouraged.

A leader can gain much from simply focussing on the other person and listening carefully.

A common mistake many leaders make is to make their communication a one-way street, robbing other people the opportunity to add value to their ideas and decisions. Listening to your audience/peers is a great way to get their attention, provided the leader is not multitasking at the time.

Active listening may be your most important skill set. Here is how to practice it:

  1. More listening less talking.
  2. Do not answer a question with a question.
  3. Do not finish the other person’s sentence.
  4. Avoid narcissism and focus on the other person.
  5. Focus on the ongoing conversation.
  6. Reframe and summarize what the other is saying.
  7. Do not think about what your reply is going to be, while the other person is talking.
  8. Ask questions.
  9. Do not interrupt.
  10. Do not take notes.

“People will forget what you said and did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou

An emotional-level connect is imperative in an effective communication, without which the entire exercise is impotent. A sincere, transparent, and emotional expression of the leader goes a long way in establishing trust and effectiveness.

Many leaders can mistake what is being stated as the entire information, neglecting the unspoken messages that are revealed by observing the body language of the subordinates and peers.

Paying attention to what isn't said can make a huge difference in the level of communication.

Any communication can only have the intended impact if the basic understanding of what is the core takeaway from the conversation is well prepared. Instead of preparing a speech, prepare the basic talking points, focusing on the main purpose for the effective communication of the message.

Avoid using too much jargon or ‘business speak’ which can come across as insincere and alienate many listeners.

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