the shape of leadership

The Secret Every Effective Communicator Knows

Avoid becoming just another voice

Kent Ingle on July 2, 2018

Someone has always played the mentor role in my life. I used to think it was normal. But it seems that is not everyone’s experience. In fact, I’ve learned just how unusual this is for most people.

Starting at a young age, people have come in and out of my life who have taught me important lessons, opened my eyes to what is possible, and pointed me in the direction I should go. I’ve benefited greatly from this. I wouldn’t be where I am today without those people speaking life and leadership into me.

But no one just walked up to me, told me they were now my mentor, and pointed out a corner in the local coffee shop where we could talk. That would be flat-out weird. And if anyone ever does that to you, get away quickly.

I met most of my mentors at just the right time through circumstances and situations that made me open and ready. I knew who they were and respected them. I also knew I could learn from them. As our interactions became more frequent, that’s when things started to take shape into a mentoring relationship.

I wouldn’t have cared about what they thought or even their take on my present situation if I hadn’t known two things about them: They were believable, and they had something to teach me. Absent those two things, these individuals would simply have been just more white noise.

Rise Above the Noise

The same is true in leadership and communication. There are messages flying all around you all the time. This world is a noisy and demanding place. So when you spend your time — however long or short — listening to a message, you expect it to provide value.

But you’ll never get to that point if the other person doesn’t establish some connection with you. The best communicators in the world have an uncanny way of breaking the ice with individuals and crowds alike and instantly making people feel like they are deeply cared about.

I’m not talking about manipulation. I’m talking about the ability to be human, make a connection and create the right environment to communicate to someone else. That’s what makes the difference between someone who hears you and someone who listens to you.

I get to spend time with both students and professionals. One of the things I regularly observe with professionals is how many believe their position automatically creates a connection and empathy with the audience — even an audience of one. Not true.

Before you can convey a message of any kind, you must connect on a human level.

This type of thinking never enters the student’s mind. Why? Because they don’t yet have a position. Students know they have to earn the trust of others, connect with them, and say something meaningful.

So, How Do You Make That Connection?

Speak from experience. It’s easy to spot people who repeat what they heard at a seminar, read in a book, or saw in a video online.

Speak with confidence. If you don’t sound like you have something important to say, people will have little reason to pay attention.

Speak to benefit others. Some people love to hear themselves talk. Whether someone else is listening is irrelevant. Those who genuinely want to benefit others are more likely to win their respect.

And how do you make sure people listen instead of just hearing? I have a rule of thumb: What you say must be relevant, timely and specific.

When communication is relevant, it matters. When it’s timely, it matters right now. When it’s specific, it is beneficial in some material way. If you can connect and drive value through what you are saying, you’ll substantially increase the chances that others will engage and listen. If not, you’ll just become another voice.

Be Believable

But there is one more thing I don’t want to undercut in any way in this conversation. There is an essential communication element that is extremely difficult to explain, teach or convey. If you have it, you probably know it. If you don’t, you should work toward developing it.

You must be believable. Period. There is no way around it. Your audience will determine your believability before they even recognize they’ve done it. And this will directly impact whether they listen to you or simply hear you.

The secret every great communicator understands is that before you can convey a message of any kind, you must connect on a human level. Doing that drives your opportunity to engage others and get them to tune in, listen up, and invest their time in a message that is relevant, timely and specific.

Without believability, you are just another leader with something to say; you won’t ever really affect the type of change you want to accomplish.

The Power Position

Leadership is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. You are there to drive toward change, but you can’t do it alone. You must take others along with you. After all, you’re not leading anyone if no one is following you.

To create change, you must practice and refine your ability to connect authentically with others so you can earn the right to invite them to join you on your adventure.

The power position in a communicative event is always in the mind of the person you want to reach. If you’ll remember that, you will align the other tactics and strategies related to communication in the right way.

Anchor your ideas in the problems, challenges and obstacles the person you are trying to reach is facing, and you’ll discover an open and engaged listener who is ready to act.


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