The human brain likes to minimize effort, says psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson – and unfortunately, that often means other people aren’t making much of an effort to understand you. As humans, “we want to spend as much effort and energy trying to understand something as we have to, but not an ounce more,” she says. “We very unconsciously rely heavily on what we expect a person to be like…stereotypes, even ones you don’t believe, can influence how you see another person.”
Of course, the upshot is that you might be misunderstanding other people, and they’re probably doing the same to you. As I discuss in my new book Stand Out, however, it’s essential to ensure that your ideas are really being heard, so they can have the impact they deserve. Halvorson, the author of the No One Understands You and What to Do About It, shares her strategies for minimizing communication missteps and helping others see you more clearly.
Show warmth, as well as competence. In order to be perceived as a likeable leader, you need to show two things: warmth and competence. “Unfortunately,” says Halvorson, “what most of us do, especially in the work context, is we work really hard to show our competence, but we forget to show warmth. That turns out to be a really toxic combination, because if you’re competent, but not warm, that actually makes you a potent foe. It makes [others feel that] you’re someone that I need to be really careful of. Leaders make this mistake all the time, they’re so busy trying to prove that they’re competent enough to lead that they forget to signal warmth, which is really the foundation of trust.” So how can you effectively signal warmth? Eye contact is key, she says. She also recommends “leaning forward a little bit during conversations, having a nice open body posture, and nodding when people are speaking to indicate understanding.”
Remove ambiguity. Too often, we assume we’ve communicated something thoroughly and effectively – yet our colleagues still haven’t gotten the message. “If you ever say to yourself, ‘I assume they know,’ they don’t,” says Halvorson. Don’t be afraid to repeat an important message multiple times, and in a multitude of ways. When in doubt, ask your colleagues and employees what they’ve heard you say, and make sure it’s accurate. “Take the ambiguity out of it and make it very clear that you are an ally, and a powerful one. Then you inspire tremendous trust and tremendous loyalty, and the upside of that is really incredible.”
Make others feel they’re on your team. It’s easy for people to resent someone who seems successful. They may tag you as overly ambitious, or a climber, or an arrogant egotist. You can avoid that fate, says Halvorson, if you “try to create commonalities with those people and make it very explicit…If you really wanted to get those people on your team, a good approach would be to tell a few more stories in the beginning that are about your foibles and your struggles. It is actually one of those things that I think is really bonding among people. You immediately feel at ease with someone who is willing to tell you that they’ve screwed up or there’s things that they don’t do well, mistakes that they keep making – that how you came to be an expert was not this smooth, flawless journey of smiles and accolades. It had many challenges in it.” Overall, she says, if you have friction with a colleague who may feel threatened by you, “really ramping up connections with that person, pointing out similarities, pointing out shared experiences, is a great way to turn you from a ‘them’ to an ‘us.’”
In a busy world, it’s easy to be misunderstood. But following these three strategies makes it more likely your true intentions will shine through.
Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out, and you can receive her free Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook.
This article was written by Dorie Clark from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.