Today’s Guest Contributor is Cordia Harrington, CEO of The Bun Company, a conglomerate supplying buns and English muffins globally to McDonald’s and other national food distributors. In corporate circles Cordia Harrington is affectionately known as The Bun Lady. She is a featured motivational speaker with the nationally recognized Premier Speakers Bureau.
In the following article, Cordia Harrington shares some tips for improving your communication style.
Cordia Harrington’s Tip #1: Awareness of Self
The first step in improving communication skills is awareness. Take a few minutes to assess the particular dynamics of your personal communication style. All individuals have a unique way of communicating. Listen to your own speech. What sorts of words do you use? Which kind of body language and what tone of voice do you most commonly use? It may be very helpful to record ten minutes of conversation between you and a friend, and then listen for the nuances in your voice.
You may have a friend or acquaintance that, in your opinion, is an excellent communicator. How does your style of speaking compare to theirs? Do you see similarities? Be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to write down several areas in which you can improve.
Cordia Harrington’s Tip #2: Pay Attention to Others
Once you are tuned into your own style of speaking, Cordia Harrington suggests that it’s time to pay more attention to the styles of those around you. Look at your immediate circle of acquaintances. What stands out in your mind as you listen to their conversations? How do they say things? Be on the lookout for specific approaches that you want to emulate, and begin making them your own.
Cordia Harrington’s Tip #3: Flexibility
Work on being more flexible as a communicator. It’s never too late to change your way of communicating. Learn to adjust to different styles of communication. The saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is not always true. You had to learn to speak when you were a young child, and while those habits have been ingrained for many years, it is still possible to unlearn certain behaviors.
It’s possible to get stuck in a communication rut without realizing it, as in the story about a father who was having a difficult time communicating with his 15-year-old daughter. He watched her growing up and pulling away from him. One day, they were in a heated discussion about why she had stopped telling him about what was going on in her life. The father demanded to know why she hadn’t told him that she was struggling in school.
The girl replied that she had, but he was too busy giving her a lecture to hear her heart. Fortunately, that was a wakeup call for the father, and he soon learned that adapting his communication style to his daughter would involve listening first instead of trying to “fix” the problem.
Cordia Harrington’s Tip #4: Build Rapport
Cordia Harrington believes that a key component of great communication is building rapport with the other person. As you engage them in conversation, pay attention to their movements, posture and verbal style. Don’t copy everything they do, but work on mirroring one or two important things. For example, if the person tends to give short answers to questions, then you do likewise.
Perhaps you are in a conversation with an individual who speaks at a slower pace than you usually do. Make a conscious effort to slow your speaking speed to match theirs. This may seem overly simplistic, but it is a very potent way to move the other person to a place where they feel relaxed and comfortable in your presence.
Cordia Harrington’s Tip #5: Appropriate Transparency
Be open to changing your style of communication to complement a different setting. The way you communicate at home will likely be different than a conversation during a business meeting. Being transparent with a best friend is appropriate; the same level of disclosure with an acquaintance is not. Be cautious about how much information you share in a group setting. Many of us have been in a situation where “too much information” makes for an awkward moment.
Cordia Harrington’s Tip #6: Accept Different Styles
Finally Cordia Harrington encourages you to refrain from being critical of other individuals when they practice communication styles that are different from what you may be accustomed to hearing. Everyone is unique in size, shape and speaking style. If we all communicated in the same way, the world would become a boring place!
We would like to thank Cordia Harrington for her contribution to this blog.