We need to understand that in life we are either growing or we are dying, there is no standstill. This example from life is a universal law for everything that we do as humans. We can look at leadership and say that we are either leading or we are following. Communication which is the task of a leader after all is no different – we are either being pro-active commanding an opinion or simply being totally reactive, on the back foot and our opinions hardly matter. The authentic reaction of people is that if we cared enough we would have shared our opinion when it mattered, not after the fact. In short people disregard you and could not give a continental if you are being reactive, in fact you would probably save yourself a lot of pain if you handed your resignation in now.
Okay, so you are still reading my article and of course I will gladly offer you the hope we all look for, what are the answers and how can we really be pro-active?
The answers are in three very basic actions and in no particular order: Example, Listening and Questions. Just those three, how can that be pro-active communication? If we think that pro-active communication is about talking we are probably missing the point and sadly most people will miss this. Let’s unpack these three basics:
Example – what are we saying when we are not saying anything? Communication is taking place constantly via our Limbic (Emotional) transmitters and receptors, in fact this makes up 80% of our communication. What we think, the emotions attached to our thinking, the way we judge others and the actions that arise from our thinking – these are all noticed and felt by the other person. Therefore whether we speak or not actually makes no difference, because we have said so much already. This of course speaks volumes and we will be judged as being part of the solution (pro-active) or part of the problem (reactive).
Listening – in order to be pro-active we need to understand and get as much information as possible, from as many sources as possible. When we listen, we should try to hear the words that are not being said, these are normally the deep-rooted issues that will not easily be shared as sufficient trust needs to be established before these can be shared. Never assume the person has said everything they want to say. If you are not sure what they are saying, look for the possible opposites in what is being said, as often the person will try to disguise the reality by using an opposite. For example when speaking about a partner, they may refer to a colleague at work, when they actually mean a loved one. Whatever information we get from these processes, remember our duty is to understand and not judge.
Questions – the real answers lie in the questions we are able to ask. These questions should be as open-ended and non-judgemental as possible. Remember never ask a question if the other person is still wanting to talk. The first question should always be a question that encourages them to simply share more information. Any other question could be seen as a judgment so think carefully before asking any question.
Remember these occur in no particular order but in each of these examples communication takes place, some of these basics allow us to be a little more proactive than others, but the real key to being pro-active is showing we are interested in them and in finding solutions to the problems in their lives. If we regard people as part of our solution, we are using them and reacting to our own selfish needs.
Pro-active communication is not easy and can be rather complex, seek first to understand and be kind in everything you do and say. It is the real challenge of leadership after all. May you be granted much wisdom in your endeavours.