Great communication starts with 4 choices

No one says it. They don’t want to believe it. But deep down inside, most of us kind of assume that some people are gifted communicators and the rest of us are just average. We don’t treat communication like any other skill that can be developed, learned, taught. Instead we think great communication comes from great communicators.

But what if great communication was the result of decisions. Choices that we, each one of us, could make.

1. Choose dialogue over monologues

One of the first choices every communicator has to make is how comfortable they are with monologues. It turns out most of us are pretty good at it. We talk, and talk, and fall in love with our voices. But being good, even great, at communication is about dialogue instead of monologues.

Our choice here is simple to write. Harder to live out. But the reality is simple – to be great at communication we need to be equally good at listening as we are at talking. More importantly, we have to come to love the dialogue. We have to get comfortable not knowing things, get comfortable learning things by listening.

2. Choose empathy over ego

If you thought the last choice was difficult, this one might feel even more difficult. Like I said before, it’s easy to fall in love with our own voices. We also can fall in love with our own brains, our own thoughts, and just about everything about ourselves. That’s the ego. And to be great at communication, you have to want to get past ego. You have to want to choose empathy.

Here’s the good news. The more you choose empathy over ego, the easier it gets. Ego gets fed by attention, and it shrinks if you give it less.

Empathy is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. A direct consequence of this dynamic is predictable – the more you learn to put yourself in others’ shoes, the better you get at communicating.

3. Choose helpful over heroic

Most leaders like having an impact. But it’s easy to look for home runs and big moments. Instead, great communicators just keep getting hits. They choose to be helpful regularly – at each touchpoint – rather than waiting for their big moment.

When you’re interacting with others, do you end each conversation or interaction with the simple question, “What else can I help you with?” The more you lean into being helpful, the more trust you’ll build with your listeners – which will help your message’s ability to have impact.

4. Choose consistency over calculations

The last choice relates to consistency – which I wrote about yesterday. Communication is like most things – the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it (much like I explained here).

I know folks that spend a lot of time figuring out the perfect words. They communicate in a way that can only be described as calculated. But the great communicators I’ve spent time with are much more relaxed about sharing their insights. They’re not focused on specific words.

In fact, sometimes it feels like they’re massaging their messaging based on who they’re talking with. And that’s a skill that only comes with practice. So choose consistency over calculations.