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Having Trouble Communicating Effectively? You’re Probably Not Doing These 3 Things

by Jude Bijou

Being an effective communicator is one of the secrets to being a great leader.

Believe it or not, there is an easy way to be regarded as a charismatic, empathetic, and socially skilled leader–a genius at communication.

It’s a sort of “shortcut,” a way to quickly pick up emotional cues from a distressed coworker, client, or employee, and then help them shift to a positive attitude.

Communicating effectively will help you develop beneficial alliances, gain people’s trust, and become more influential. It may be the most effective leadership tool you ever learn.

communicating effectively

The Three Communication Bridges

Seeing and hearing are natural gifts for us. We can use our senses to determine if someone in the workplace is swept up in three core emotions: sadness, anger, or fear. And then we can confidently know how to best offer help using what I call a “communication bridge.”

Related: How To Communicate With Difficult People

With just a little practice, you’ll be able to recognize the emotions underneath other people’s demeanor, words, and actions. Rather than reacting to what they say or do, you can extend a “bridge” that consists of targeted words and actions that will help shift their emotional state by offering what they truly need or long to hear but don’t know how to ask for.

1. Sadness

A person who’s sad isn’t necessarily crying. Other behaviors or attitudes that spring from sadness include low self-esteem, neediness, insecurity, self-loathing, shame, helplessness, and being unassertive.

When people are feeling sad, they are most likely thinking or speaking poorly of themselves. Maybe they are being passive or clingy.

Related: 7 Tips For Staying Positive When The Going Gets Rough

The shortcut: Sadness + Appreciation = Joy

To transform sadness into its positive counterpart, joy, apply a generous dose of appreciation. In your interactions with them, convey the idea that you value their ideas or really like their team spirit. Remind them of their strengths and contributions.

2. Anger

A person who’s angry might yell and stomp to express their feelings. But watch for other behaviors that spring from anger, which include jealousy, blaming, intolerance, frustration, resentment, criticism, rebelliousness, and arrogance.

People who are angry in the workplace, and place blame, spew negativity, and hurl criticism, really just feel isolated and are in desperate need of understanding. They won’t respond well to debates, lectures, or reprimands.

Related: The 4 Types Of Difficult People And How To Deal With Them

The shortcut: Anger + Understanding = Love

To transform anger into its positive counterpart, love, you need to sincerely hear them out without taking what they say personally. Focus on what’s going on with them behind their angry words and let the rest go flying by, that is, their “you’s” and accusations.

Silently repeat or say, “I want to hear what you have to say,” and just listen. They just want to be understood. You don’t have to agree. You just need to truly understand their position.

3. Fear

Fear is an interesting emotion that wears many faces. When people are fearful, they show it by acting worried, anxious, distracted, dramatic, indecisive, confused, impatient or panicked.

Related: 10 Ways To Stop Stress Eating

If someone is overwhelmed, anxious, or freaked out, chances are he or she has some unexpressed fear pent up.

The shortcut: Fear + Reassurance = Peace

People whose behavior is ruled by fear need honest reassurances. Comfort, soothe, and repeatedly remind them that everything is and will be all right. Another reassuring comment is, “We’ll make our way through this together.” Or offer reassurance by reminding them of the objective reality: “You’ve done this successfully before.”

Communication Bridges Enhance Leadership

Communicating effectively is essential. When you extend a communication bridge to someone who’s having emotional difficulty, it strengthens your ability to lead and influence them. You’ll deepen your workplace relationships when you become adept at recognizing other people’s emotions.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Your Emotional Intelligence Matters More Than Your IQ

You can use this knowledge to communicate in the ways most helpful to them and beneficial to your business.

What an amazing talent you’ll be cultivating. For example, if you know that your team’s leader is quick to anger, you can consciously listen silently and understand his position, especially at times when he is upset or under stress. If a valuable employee often seems glum or down, you can choose to validate her gifts and skills a little more often.

The Takeaway

Communicating effectively means understanding the three communication bridges. Once you understand these three relationships, you’ll also be in a position to offer a bridge to yourself. Sadness, for instance, is a cue to give yourself some extra self-appreciation. Anger indicates you need to give yourself a break. And fear is a sign to reassure yourself that everything is indeed okay and unfolding in its own time.


jude bijouJude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, consultant, and workshop leader. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction evolved over the course of more than 30 years working with clients as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.

Photo by mark sebastian

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