When was the last time you made a change in HOW you communicate? What? You’ve never had a NEED to change? “I communicate all the time.” “I’ve been doing this for years and people tell me I’m a good communicator.” “The Boomers are old school and they need to learn how to communicate with me via text.” “The Xers, Y’s, and Millennials just don’t understand how to communicate effectively.” Comments like these are even more reasons to read on.
With change comes the unknown. Without change comes little to no improvement in our professional and personal lives. Most of us do not make changes because it’s not easy. When the changes you want to make are a must for you, you will fight tooth and nail to make it happen. How important is it to you to influence others through your communication? How badly do you want to be perceived as confident, credible, and trustworthy? Making even a small change TODAY in how you communicate gets you closer to a whole new level of communicating with influence.
You first need to reach a realization: “How I communicate with others is not OK with me. I know I’m better than this. I’m committed to do whatever it takes to make a change.” When you make the link to what you’re committed to and what you’re about, changes in your communication behavior will happen.
We live in a diverse workforce, with groups from the Boomers to Xers, Y’s, and Millennials. Therefore, the change I’m referring to goes beyond just focusing on what works for you. The change requires you to tap in to what is important to your listener and communicate using their words, emotions, and level of understanding. Click your idea to your listener’s problem by articulating your language in a way that provides them with solutions and opportunities. This is the moment in the conversation when you’ll begin to build trust and rapport. Position your ideas and message so your listener clicks in to act on what you have to say.
Here is one easy change you can make that will allow you to connect more deeply with your listener’s experience and expectations. Before and during your next conversation, take five minutes to tailor your message for your listener. The acronym KNOW will ensure that you conduct powerful analysis in order to tailor your message to each specific meeting, presentation, and virtual and face-to-face conversation and increase the likelihood that you will influence action.
Here’s what KNOW stands for:
K = Know:
What does my listener know about my topic and what is their experience? A Boomer will have a different perspective on how to build a relationship based on their experiences compared to a Millennial.
N = Need:
What does my listener need to know to take action in the amount of time I have to present the message? A Boomer may want more detail to make a decision, whereas an Xer only needs the takeaways that will really impact them.
O = Opinion:
What is my listener’s opinion on my subject? Everyone has their own opinion based on what they know and what they need to know.
If you are unsure of the answer before your conversation, then there are ways to gather this vital information. Ask open-ended questions at the beginning of the conversation in order to find out exactly what they know about your company, your products, and your services. What do they like about your competition? Most importantly, what areas of improvement are they hoping to see?
This line of questioning can help you choose your opening words carefully. Within 30 seconds or less your listener should know what it is you want them to do and exactly what’s in it for them.
W = Who:
Who are they? Dive further and ask: What do I want them to know about the topic? How will the action I want them to take benefit them? What are my listener’s goals? Why should my listeners be interested in this particular topic?
KNOW will only take five minutes to walk through in your mind before you embark on a sales pitch or meeting. When meeting a brand-new client it would be wise to expand W in order to dig a little bit deeper to tailor your behavior and plan to communicate and sell.
Taking the analysis to the next level will force you to think clearly about your clients’ wants. Even though you are selling the same product, every pitch should be different in order to suit that specific target. So taking the time to walk through KNOW can make all the difference — whether it’s in regards to presentations, sales pitches, or even the way you reply to emails. Put it into practice and watch your positive response rate increase.
- What preconceived notions do they have of you?
- What has been their experience of your product or competition?
- What do they want to change?
Changing your communication behavior includes four steps: awareness, understanding, acceptance and taking action.
A prerequisite for making a change is to be aware of your communication strengths, weaknesses, and impact on others. To truly be aware you need to ask others to give you constructive feedback. What you become aware of might be surprising.
This is the stage where you say, “A-ha! I understand what needs to be done to make the change I want to make.” You’ve reached a stage where you stop denying this change is needed and are willing to accept it. When the pain is great enough or if you haven’t seen results in a while, MAKE A CHANGE!
During this stage, you accept that this can be the new and improved way you communicate. You’re more open-minded, more interested in making the change, and focused on moving forward.
4. Taking Action
This is where most people come to a HALT. What distinguishes a great communicator from an average communicator is this: Great communicators do what average communicators do not want to do. Take action today. Not tomorrow, not next week, but today to begin making changes so that one year from today you’re not stuck in the same spot.
Put your commitment to yourself in writing. Make a list of the changes you’re encountering now. Your list should include changes you’ve chosen, changes imposed on you, changes you look forward to, changes you have some anxiety about, and so on. Which change listed above presents the most difficult challenge for you? What do you need to do differently?
Stacey Hanke is the founder and communication expert of Stacey Hanke Inc communication. In her book Yes You Can! she reveals practical and immediate skills and techniques to enhance verbal skills to influence others. Stacey helps individuals eliminate the static that plagues communicative delivery to persuade, sell, influence, and effectively communicate face-to-face with a clear message. Learn more about Stacey at www.staceyhankeinc.com.