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The Art of Effective Communication & People Skills (Part 1)

I once read this profound and compelling quote by best selling author and leadership expert John C. Maxwell: “The basis of life is people and how they relate to each other. Our success, fulfillment, and happiness depend upon our ability to relate effectively. The best way to become a person that others are drawn to is to develop qualities that we are attracted to in others.”

Although I wholeheartedly agree with Maxwell’s assessment stated above, the original basis of his statement is found in the biblical passage of Matthew 7:12 which says, “Therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” This scripture has come to be known and referenced throughout the annals of time as “The Golden Rule,” and I believe that it still rules!

The word “we” is the most important word in the English language. As challenges escalate, the need for teamwork elevates. The number 1 is too small of a number to ever achieve greatness alone. The higher the challenge and the bigger the problem, the more important it is to have a team of people to work alongside us. If we are willing to expand our current knowledge and take ourselves to a new level, then we must take others with us. However, in order to attract a team of people to be a part of or, if applicable to lead, we must learn the art of effective communication and people skills.

When thinking about “The Golden Rule” and how it relates to communicating with people, it is important to identify how we expect to be treated and to ensure that we practice what we preach by extending the same expectations in our thoughts, words and actions toward others. Here are five effective communication skills that align with how we should treat others and how they should treat us in return:

1.  Encouragement - To encourage simply means to inspire someone with courage, spirit and confidence. Everyone is not self-motivated, but anyone can be inspired to accomplish more when they are encouraged to do so by those who believe in and see the greatness within them. Latent potential can be released when someone makes a demand upon that potential, and often times, encouragement is needed to build confidence and unleash hidden talent.

2.  Appreciation - No one likes for their value to be underestimated, or to be taken advantage of for that matter (i.e., failing to give credit for suggestions; failing to correct grievances; failing to offer encouragement; being criticized in public; failing to ask for opinions or perspectives; failing to communicate progress; favoritism, etc.).

3.  Forgiveness - We all need to both give and receive mercy or forgiveness from God, and we freely receive it as a gift from Him when we need it. Just as we want and need to be forgiven, so do others. Extending the same grace to others that we have received ourselves helps the giver just as much as it does the receiver. In so doing, we release others and ourselves from resentment and bitterness that stem from a refusal to forgive.

4.  Listening - Active listening involves paying attention to the conversation of another for the sole purpose of hearing what is being said, without trying to think of or formulate a response while the person is speaking.

5.  Understanding - When communicating with others, we should first seek to understand rather than trying to get our own point across to be understood.

In order to apply “The Golden Rule” in effectively communicating with others, it is important to understand what people may like or appreciate about us and why. Some people, particularly those who are in primary leadership roles, have a charismatic persona that seemingly enlists enthusiasm and loyalty from others. The following acrostic for “charisma” demonstrates traits that are not simply inborn, but are attainable by anyone who cares about people and wants to develop his or her relational skills.

C - Concern (the ability to show you care)

H - Help (the ability to reach out)

A - Action (the ability to make things happen)

R - Results (the ability to produce)

I - Influence (the ability to lead)

S - Sensitivity (the ability to feel and respond)

M - Motivation (the ability to give hope)

A - Affirmation (the ability to build up)

Roadblocks to charisma are pride, insecurity, moodiness, perfectionism, oversensitivity and negativism which are detrimental to building relationships. Treating others the way we want to be treated is the foundation upon which effective communication is built.

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