Great leaders are always marked by fantastic communication skills. Abraham Lincoln was known for persuading his infamously divided cabinet by telling stories. As many as 250,000 people at a time traveled from all over the country to listen to Martin Luther King Jr. give speeches. How did these men become so effective? Among other things, they followed the principles of great communicators.
The Core Principles of Great Communicators
The reality is that there are a number of various communication styles among world-class communicators. For simplicity, I’ll define a world-class communicator as an influencer of industry and culture who typically has a much higher net worth than the overwhelming majority.
Some leaders like Mr. Rogers are more soft-spoken. Others like Donald Trump tend to be more bold and grandiose. Nevertheless, I would argue that there are fundamental principles of great communicators that they all follow. I’ve seen these types of people up close in seminars, board meetings, and one-on-one conversations, and I’ve observed very similar patterns in them all despite their unique differences.
In this post, I’ll share the 7 principles of great communication that I’ve had the honor of observing in world-class communicators. I believe that no matter what your personal communication style is and where you are in your hero’s journey, you can implement these principles to become a positive force of nature in any environment and increase the respect, compensation, and influence you receive.
Be an Influencer, Not a Manipulator
Please note that I’m about to share is not to be used for manipulation. Manipulators come from a selfish place, but I believe that influencers come from a selfless place. Frankly, I don’t think that any of these principles will work for you if you’re trying to control other people or use them. They will only work if you’re genuinely interested in the person across from you and are working for something greater than yourself.
“Manipulators come from a selfish place, but influencers come from a selfless place.”
So before you implement these tactics, check your motives and ask yourself why you want to be a great communicator. If the only answer is you want more money or status, don’t be ashamed. Nevertheless, I’d encourage you to dig deeper. You exist with a specific purpose beyond yourself, no matter who you are, and you won’t truly be fulfilled until you figure out what that is and start living it out.
Principle #1 – Lean In
At JPI, we define leaning in as spending however much time and energy you must in order to fully understand another person’s perspective. It means completely withholding judgement and pushing against them until you really hear where they’re coming from. This doesn’t mean you need to agree with them, but it does mean you need to really see through their eyes.
Great communicators are less concerned with being right than they are with bringing a positive outcome to others. They aren’t fighting to save face – they check their egos at the door and are open to having their minds changed. Empathy is perhaps the most important trait for any great leader. It can turn enemies into peaceful neighbors or even friends. This is why leaning in is #1 in the principles of great communicators.
Principle #2 – Listen More than You Speak
This build off of leaning in, because nothing will make you more interesting and effective than listening. It’s also the only way you’ll ever gain a different perspective than yours, and you need other perspectives to be successful. The simple act of shutting up, saying nothing, and paying attention to somebody else is so powerful, because most people never do it. Yet the wisest person is generally the last person to speak.
“The wisest person is generally the last person to speak.”
Here’s an easy way to practice this principle of great communicators: the next time someone is talking to you about something important to them, close your eyes so you don’t get distracted and listen intently. Nod along to what they say and give verbal cues to show that you are listening. People may ask you what you’re doing. If they do, tell them the truth. You’re trying to become a better listener and really hear what they’re saying, and you don’t want to get distracted. If you do this, you will build so much trust so quickly.
Principle #3 – Be Clear
I once overheard Dave Ramsey say the following: “It’s unkind to be unclear.” Clarity takes effort and focus, because language is really complex and everyone operates from a completely different frame of reference. Nevertheless, we owe it to everyone in our lives to choose our words carefully and fully explain what we’re trying to say. Expecting others to track with us with 100% accuracy is not reasonable.
To do this, we have to care more about the other person’s comprehension than we do about our time. We simply have to get rid of the false expectation that other people should know what we’re saying. It’s not their job to understand us, it’s our job to make them understand. This is core to the principles of great communicators.
Principle #4 – Be Honest
We should always be treating people how we want to be treated. No one wants to be lied to, you shouldn’t lie to others. Not only is it manipulative and wrong, but it’s the fastest way to destroy trust. Without trust, you can’t have healthy relationships, and without healthy relationships, you cannot lead effectively or have a successful life.
It’s easier to destroy trust than you might think. People are better at picking up lies than even they know, often subconsciously registering them before consciously realizing it. Over time, the more you lie (even by omission) the less someone will trust you. That’s why great communicators are always focused on being authentic as a habit.
Principle #5 – Walk the Talk
Great communicators aren’t just honest with others – they’re honest with themselves. They hold themselves accountable to the same rules and expectations they hold others to. This may be fifth in the order of principles of great communicators, but it’s in strong competition with principle #1 for the title of most important. In reality, we are always communicating. Our lives and actions are going to speak louder than words.
Principle #6 – Honor
Renowned faith leader Danny Silk once defined honor as “treating somebody as though they’re Jesus himself.” Regardless of your worldview, I think this is a pretty perfect description. Can you imagine if you lived this way?
The quickest way to lose the confidence of others is gossip, which I define as putting someone else down in the presence of others. You may think this builds you up, but the people around you will look at you differently, even if they laugh and agree with you. Deep down they will begin to ask, “Do they talk this way about me?”
People who display honor, on the other hand, always express gratitude for others. When in doubt, they praise others and give the credit away. Otherwise, they say nothing at all.
Principle #7 – Give More Value Than Expected
Great communicators consistently over-deliver. They aren’t afraid to give away something for free. Mind you, they know when to negotiate and stand up for themselves, but they love to give their audience something they weren’t expecting. It could be something small like a funny story. It could also be useful advice that nobody paid for. Regardless, they pack their messages full of meat, and they are allergic to fluff.
Invest in Your Communication Skills
World-class communicators got to where they are because they weren’t shortsighted. Twenty years ago, they were thinking about today, focusing on creating a legacy of blessings and possibilities in order to make the largest impact possible. So what are you going to do with these 7 principles of great communicators?
If you apply and practice these principles every day starting right now, you will see positive change in your relationships, career, and income sooner or later (and probably sooner).
However, as you advance, it will become that much more important that you identify your purpose so that you can live a fulfilling life. We at the Journey Principles Institute are here to help you with exactly that.
Right now we’re giving away our entire library of E books free of charge. Each of these short reads is packed with exercises and practical information that will help you improve your relationships, gain crucial self knowledge, and accelerate change in any area of your life. They’re yours at no cost, so there’s literally no reason not to grab them right now.