This has been said about leaders like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and surely you can think of an example of a manager, parent-figure, or colleague who exemplified this skill.
If you’re like me and can’t remember the name of someone you spoke to 30 seconds ago, here’s the good news:
Communication is a skill set, which means that it can continually be learned, practiced, and refined. Here are a few tips to help you make the people around you feel more important, strengthening your relationship with them and leaving a lasting impact.
First and foremost, give them your undivided attention
Giving someone your full attention is the first step towards winning them over, and ultimately is the basis for respectful communication. This seems obvious, but you may not even be aware of the common distractions that pull you away.
Put your phone on silent and out of sight so you aren’t tempted to check your messages or notifications during a conversation. In 1-on-1 conversations and limit interruptions, and in group social settings and group conversations, make sure you pay full attention to the person who is speaking. Avoid interrupting, and be aware of your tendencies to use “overlap” interruptions, where you chime in cooperatively to finish someone’s sentence or repeat what they say as they are saying it.
Learn a personal fact, and reiterate it later
Learning and reiterating a personal fact is a great tool to use with employees, or at social gatherings. When you meet someone, take hold of one tidbit of information that they say to you. When you see them again later, reiterate it and add your input, “I thought about what you said about X, and I think…”
Having a specific fact to relate to this person’s name and face will not only help you remember them better in the short- and long-term, it will also make them feel like the most important person in the room.
Thank them for being vulnerable
Sharing ideas, especially in business, can make you feel very vulnerable. What if your boss, business partner, or associate thinks it’s a dumb idea? What if they steal your idea and pass it off as their own?
Everyone has these sorts of impostor thoughts at some point or another, which makes it a great opportunity to create a strong sense of connection. There are a wide variety of other things that might make someone feel vulnerable: sharing a personal thought or story, disagreeing with someone they see as superior or holding more power, admitting they don’t know something that is seemingly obvious to everyone else, etc.
Each of these examples is a door open to winning this person over. Whenever you notice that someone uses language or behavior that indicates vulnerability, take a moment to pause and thank them.
“Thank you for asking that question. Let me explain that acronym that everyone has been using.”
Invest in them and provide opportunity
Investing money in startups is risky but can be highly rewarding. The same can be said for investing in people.
Some people you invest in will try to take advantage of you, but many of them will learn from you and grow with you, and provide far more value to you in the end than you initially invested in them.
Managers have the unique opportunity to invest in their employees. You can do so by hiring someone that has unlimited potential and a good work ethic, but may be slightly underqualified. Create value to them by being supportive, encouraging, sharing knowledge, and providing honest feedback. If they need something that you can’t provide, be a resource in connecting them with someone you know.
You don’t have to be the president of a nation or fortune-500 executive to be an excellent manager and a true leader. Leaders exist in side-hustle entrepreneurs who have been scraping by on nothing for years, Instagram influencers, nurses, call center workers, and t-ball coaches. Having and developing excellent communication skills are key to being a successful manager in any field, and the ability to make someone feel special is a skill that will amplify your relationship with the people most important to you.