How to Be an Effective Communicator in 5 Easy Steps

02/27/2015 07:58 pm ET | Updated Apr 29, 2015

1. Be Genuine

The human mind was created with the sole purpose of perceiving danger. The mind's main objective for the past thousands of years has been keeping us alive. Even though we do not have saber tooth tigers hunting us anymore, our fear sensing abilities, also known as, intuition is still in prime form. People can sense the disingenuous person miles away. We have that "gut" feeling which, while we cannot explain it, can sway us one way or another -- to do business, be friends or get into a relationship with someone or not. It does not matter what business you are in, the number one way to be an effective communicator and build lasting relationships is to be genuine. Bottom line: This is as simple as not playing games, making sure your actions match your words and above all keep your conversations on the up-and-up, do not bash another company to try and get a client -- it will never work. When in doubt ask yourself "What is in it for them?"

2. Stop Multi-Tasking - Be Present

So often I find myself engaged in a conversation and I know the person is not paying attention to me. They are either surveying the room for someone "better" to talk to, they are checking their phone and half listening or the worst offenders are the ones who are just waiting to get back their turn to talk and command the conversation. I blame technology for playing into our human fear of missing out. It takes awareness to realize that by being distracted and multi-tasking you are in fact missing out, however, not in the way you may think. When you are not present you are absolutely being disrespectful, yet more than that, you are missing an opportunity to connect with someone who may be of value to you in the future. It takes less than 7 seconds to make a first impression so make the most of it, a firm handshake, a smile and eye contact if you are in person, a smile and clear articulation if you are on the phone.
Bottom line: You will make infinitely more long withstanding relationships, close more deals and have a bigger, stronger, more supportive network by simply being present when you are interacting with someone!

3. Ask Questions

It is proven that the subject people like to discuss the most are themselves. Why not use that to your advantage and be a detective. Whether you are meeting a new friend or a new client the fact still remains, to effectively communicate, one must listen more than they talk. By asking questions, you make it about them and give them an avenue to share with you what they are all about. If you listen and ask the right questions they will tell you exactly what you need to know -- from what their struggles are, what solutions they are looking for, to what way they want to move forward. Do not underestimate the power of questions as a way to build rock solid connections, both personal and professional. If you want to brush up on your skills I recommend Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others
by Andrew Sobel or The Fine Art of Small Talk: How To Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills -- and Leave a Positive Impression! by Debra Fine.
Bottom line: If you have a big deal coming up, want to secure a new client or if you want to get better at your job, ask more questions!

4. Build Trust

If you go into networking events or meetings picturing dollar signs on people's heads, we have a problem and you should read Bob Burgs The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea tonight. As I mentioned before, effective communicators are the people who listen more than they talk, but really what makes an effective communicator is trust. The most effective way to build trust is to offer something before you take something. It could be as simple as introducing them to someone at the event that they would like to meet, it could be sending them an article they might find value in or it could be sending clients their way before they even fully understand what you do. Building trust is like building a fire -- you have to start with kindling -- the initial contact, then you can add a bigger piece of wood - a coffee meeting or telephone call, then a few more pieces of wood -- an interesting article, an email, a referral for them, then you can add the big piece of wood that will smolder all night -- the ask, the close, the business deal, the relationship. So often I see people extinguish what could have been a very mutually beneficial relationship because they want instant gratification -- they want the business now, they want the relationship now; they made it about them! Some of the best and most lucrative relationships I have created were nurtured over years before I reaped the benefits. Relish the slow burn, reward yourself for patience and for goodness sake make more connections in the meantime so you don't fixate! Reach out every now and again, add value to them, and you'll be amazed with the dividends you receive.
Bottom line: The magic is in the nurturing, the patience and the follow up. Hold the vision and trust the process.

5. Call Instead of Relying on Written Communication

I have found with many of my clients that almost all of the conflict they stress over could have been avoided by simply picking up the phone. So often in our busy lives we rely on text, email or various other messaging applications to communicate. While this is an easy way to get answers and communicate, it lacks two very critical components to effectively communicate -- tone and context. Just think about it, how often have you received a text and perceived something that was never intended by the person who sent it? Suddenly you go from happy to sad, stressed and maybe even angry over something that was just a simple misunderstanding. My advice is if you get a message that makes your blood pressure rise, gives you a twinge in your stomach or makes you just go "huh?" pick up the phone and ask for clarification. Bottom line: There is nothing that can substitute for old-fashioned, voice-to-voice or belly-to-belly communication.