“Style” can refer to many things: composition, aesthetics, technique, a process of creation, mode of expression, etc. In the context of art, we think of style as aesthetic value or technique. In fashion, style refers to expression. How about communication? Which reference applies best in this context? All of them!
The word style, no matter the context, refers to the way in which a person communicates herself and her ideas—who she really is and where she’s coming from.
Your behavior communicates your style and most people aren’t paying attention to what they are communicating.
Why is style so important?
Other people judge you—your intentions and your trustworthiness—by the way you make them feel. From there, they decide how deeply they will allow you to communicate with them.
- Talker or listener
- Fast or slow talker
- Monologue or dialogue
- Talking to or at people
- Animated or reserved
- Loud or quiet
- Open or withholding
- Positive or negative
- Confident or shy
- Eye contact or not
- And that’s not all …
Your behavior speaks volumes about your beliefs, attitude, and your frameworks. People want to know if you’re safe to be with; if they can believe what you say and whether you’ll be harsh in your judgment and treatment of their feelings and ideas. How might a person interpret your intentions if you’re busy preparing a rebuttal while she’s still talking? How might a person describe you if you often finish his sentences?
Elements of Communication
The elements of communication are listening and hearing, speaking, and non-verbal cuing. Upgrading your skills includes:
- Making communication a high priority
- Being open to other people
- Creating or finding environments that are receptive to communication
To master any skill, communication included, practice and experimentation is needed. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone and allow for a few mistakes along the way to mastery.
8 places to start
There are some fundamental components of active listening and responding which, when practiced and upgraded, greatly improve the connections you make with other people.
1. Restate: Paraphrase the other person’s idea in your own words so that she knows you heard her and she feels understood.
2. Non-Verbal: Match your body language and tone to that of an active listener, i.e. lean in, nod occasionally, make eye contact, unfold arms and legs, etc. Watch for inconsistencies in the other person’s body language for clues as to the emotion and intent of the speaker. The “real” message is conveyed in the non-verbal cues.
3. Green Light Questions: Ask questions that require more than yes/no answers to prompt further conversation. Ask why, what, when, etc. questions and be sure to communicate curiosity versus accusation or disapproval.
4. Acknowledge: When you acknowledge what is said you’re telling the speaker that you value him as a person. It’s okay to acknowledge an opinion without agreeing. For example, “I understand your position,” is acknowledgment without agreement.
5. Reflect: Be a mirror that feeds back the image of the speaker’s emotion. It’s showing empathy and understanding. Again, it doesn’t constitute agreement.
6. Summarize: Distinct from restatement, summarizing anchors the main points and demonstrates understanding of the big picture.
7. Framework: Refer to yourself as you share a message or suggest an approach to someone. Remember: the way you would do something can only really be effective for you; to all others it’s just food for thought.
8. Reframe: Bringing a new perspective to a situation can be helpful as long as your message is judgment free and offered without expectation.
Knowing all this is only part of the equation. In the final post on communication, I’ll give some examples of ways in which to experiment with skills and ideas to help you recognize pivotal moments.
- Communication Part 1 – Top 10 to be happy
- Communication Part 2 – Definitions and Distinctions
- Communication Part 3 – Profound Relationships
- Communication Part 5 – Pivotal Moments
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