Communication is everything in life and business. In each interaction it is not what you communicate but how you communicate that makes all the difference. Business interactions range from big egos and hot-headed temperaments to people who are too insecure to speak up. Neither creates productive conversations that result in movement towards greater success. Communication must be respectful to be received well by your counterparts. You must cultivate the emotional control, insight, charisma and courage to voice your ideas and respectfully champion them.
1. Be clear on your views.
It takes confidence to share your ideas in the workplace, especially if your goal is to influence and impress colleagues outside your immediate team, including those who have seniority. To be confident when communicating with your boss, a senior executive or a prospective customer you have to be clear on your views. The more clarity you have going into a conversation the more your ideas will be received with thoughtful interest.
When communicating, never worry about stepping out of line. All that can happen is your viewpoints will be considered and then turned down, so you haven’t gained or lost anything. In finding the courage to communicate, however, you develop more confidence in your opinions then if you had never expressed them. If you believe that your ideas can make a significant contribution, then voice them. It is worth the risk.
2. Be prepared.
You cannot weaken once you go in for the kill and express your ideas or opinions. Get right to the point. Clarity and directness give you power and authority, especially when you're trying to communicate with higher level executives. State your ideas with a bold but not obnoxious clarity.
Never lead with an apology or any type of excuse which shows insecurity. Start your communication with a strong, confident “I” statement backed up with evidence in support of the validity of your ideas or opinions. Evidence or research will help you not to falter because you have reliable information to reference if you are called upon to prove yourself. Each time your view is challenged it gives you an opportunity to reaffirm the validity of your ideas. View these challenges not as rejections, but as welcomed opportunities.
3. Stick to your guns.
Be prepared to stand firm for your ideas whenever necessary. It may be intimidating to stand up to dissenting views, particularly if the opposition is coming from those in higher positions. Keep in mind ideas that are the most worth sharing are the ones likely to be bordering on the edge of controversial. Whenever you present something new, expect to be challenged, then rise to the occasion by citing the evidence and research forming your position.
Show your conviction without being defensive or aggressive, both of which advertise a lack of confidence and undermine the validity of your idea to the powers that be. When confronted or questioned, first acknowledge the other person’s point of view, then firmly and cordially demonstrate the valid reasons you see things differently.
4. Provoke questioning.
Senior executives value thoughtful input from others. They thrive on ideas which provoke innovative dialogue. They like to be challenged and to challenge back when they share opposing views. This type of dialogue inspires each person to generate and put forth only their best ideas. Whenever you get the opportunity to generate and contribute to a critical thinking conversation, engage in this dynamic with a spirit of cooperation and open-mindedness.
When you are cooperative and open minded you inspire dialogue that builds solutions. It is best to be involved in the game rather than to stay quiet or allowing yourself to become internally combative. The more cooperative you can be and open to new additions to the ideas you’re presenting, the more interesting you become to those above or below you. It shows great character to bend and be flexible while also sticking strongly to what you believe about your ideas and opinions. You remain approachable yet steady, having the ability to get others to question and ponder more deeply what you bring to the table.
5. Show respect.
People are people. If you approach senior executives with an “underling” disposition your ideas and opinions will not be taken seriously. Your attitude, approach, nonverbal energy and tone of voice reveal everything. Respect yourself first by showing confidence and then always be respectful when sharing your ideas.
There is an unconscious habit in most people to defer to those who have more power but if you defer to them, they will not respect this about you. Do not let your uppers take control of the conversation or let them silence you. Show your respect by only sharing your best ideas with them. Conversely, when you address those less senior to you, show an equal degree of respect. Listen to them carefully, acknowledge their opinions, and build upon their ideas in whatever way you can.
6. Be genuine.
It takes extraordinary courage to be confident in yourself while sharing your ideas, especially if you work on a team where you aren't necessarily seen as the type to voice ideas or opinions. Sometimes that isn't always personal. It may be the culture of the team or company. As you look around at your peers, you may feel there's a normal way of dressing, speaking, looking, and acting and it can be compelling to maintain status quo. Keep in mind, however, great successes never obey status quo. Further, there's no need to resist corporate culture in your effort to become a more powerful communicator. You can stay in line with what works, still be bold in who you are and state your opinions and ideas.
Authenticity is a contagious character trait. The more genuine you allow yourself to be regardless of company culture and the more willing you are to put what you think out there, the more successful you will inspire your team to be. Be willing to risk. Have the courage to utilize your spontaneity, creative energy, vigor, and sense of humor. Suppressing those qualities won't serve you, your message, or your company.
In any type of communication your emotions can confuse and derail you. Go into each interaction knowing your emotions cannot be trusted. You may feel shy, insecure and uncertain. Deal with this like a pebble in your shoe. It is uncomfortable but you have to ignore it. These emotions must be overcome for your ideas to be heard, respected and then utilized. You cannot let these lower level insecurities or any defensiveness be a part of your equation. Go into each interaction with a smile. This makes it appear as if you have it together. Be well-groomed and possess a sense of humor. If you act confident enough, you will become confident enough. Dress the part, play the role and say what you need to say as it if is absolute truth. This is how you will close every deal and climb the corporate ladder.
Related: 10 Behaviors of Genuine People