Ep25: How to be a more engaging communicator

TalentGrow Show episode 25 Halelly Azulay How to be a more engaging communicator

In this solo episode, I share seven ways that you can be a more engaging communicator. This episode will help you improve your communication success in every kind of interaction, whether at work, at home, or anywhere else. There are lots of actionable tips and ideas that will help you be magnetic and compelling to those you speak with. These can help anyone, from the most awkward or shy to those who were born with a high charisma level, take their communication skills to the next level. Give it a listen now, and share it with someone you think would enjoy it today!

What you’ll learn:

Listen to Stitcher
  • What is ‘confident benevolence’ and why this is both Halelly’s all-time favorite compliment received and a great way for you to become more engaging in your communication?
  • Why is enthusiasm the ‘secret sauce’ of highly engaging people?
  • Why should you shift your focus to being interested in the other when you want them to be interested in you?
  • What in the heck is a ‘fascination detective’ and why is Halelly suggesting you become one?
  • Why is authenticity tricky and a required ingredient for being more engaging?
  • What does it mean to be congruent in your verbal and nonverbal communication and why should you pay attention to it?
  • What’s a common mistake that many communicators make, especially in public speaking, that unintentionally erects a wall between them and their audience?
  • What’s a way you can leverage the basic human need for reciprocity to create higher trust in your conversations and relationships?

@@ Compel, don’t repel – follow these 7 tips and become a more engaging communicator @@ 
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About Halelly

Let’s connect! I’m @HalellyAzulay on Twitter, and let’s also on connect LinkedIn and Facebook

Grab my free 10 Mistakes Leaders Make and How to Avoid Them tool! --->

One of the most popular posts on the TalentGrow blog is 7 Surefire Tricks for Being a More Engaging Communicator. It inspired this podcast episode.

Check out episode 22 of the TalentGrow Show podcast with Chip Joyce (he’s the one who gave me that awesome compliment that turned into my first tip in this show)

I was wrong – “To be interesting, be interested” was written by Dale Carnegie in his classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People

This is the vlog where I mention being a fascination detective

Here’s my blog post about Authenticity

Read and hear more about being congruent – in this vlog as well as this blog post about 6 principles of effective communication

Influence by Robert Cialdini – it’s such a great book

More about cognitive dissonance

Swift/benevolent trust is covered in this blog post about building trust

Hey – did you grab my free 10 Mistakes Leaders Make and How to Avoid Them tool yet? Whatcha waiting for??

Intro/outro music for The TalentGrow Show: "Why-Y" by Esta - a great band of exquisitely talented musicians, and good friends of mine.


Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist with a solo episode. So, as you might know, most of the episodes of the TalentGrow Show feature a guest, and a conversation between myself and that guest. But, every once and a while I will record a solo episode and they are always intended to share some of my expertise and knowledge with you. Having spent my whole career focused on communication skills and leadership skills, I can tell you that I have seen countless examples of people absolutely improving their communication success through mindful practice. What I do for a living is I help create better leaders within organizations and I do that through consulting strategy for leadership development as well as facilitation of workshops and speaking at conferences and corporate meetings. So everything that I do – and of course I write my blog and record vlogs and record this podcast – so everything I do is all centered around improving leadership skills and improving workplace communication skills.

With this being episode 25, which marks the very first episode of my second year in podcasting, I thought it would be a great time to do a solo episode on the topic that is actually the most popular post on my blog, which is how to be a more engaging communicator. So I have seven tips for you today. And I will go into each one in a little bit of detail, and then if there’s any one of them that you want me to expand on, it’ll be your job to tell me. So you’ll need to leave me a comment or write me an email or tweet at me or do something to let me know what it is that you’d like to know more of, or what questions you still have. Because there is no way that everything that relates to communication can be covered in one episode of a podcast or in seven measly tips. But I do think that if you follow even one of these tips, or take it to heart and try to implement it, you will become a more engaging communicator than whatever level of engagement you already are getting. So this could be helpful to anyone from the most introverted and maybe awkward communicator, all the way to expert, charisma superstars.

Okay. So the first tip I have is actually using language from my favorite compliment that I’ve ever received. This was a compliment I received several years ago when I first met a friend of mine, Chip Joyce, who I actually interviewed for the podcast in episode 22, which I hope you’ll check out because it’s been one of the most popular episodes we’ve ever had. And I appreciate that he even gave me a compliment because we had just met, but he said to me that what he appreciated about me is I exude confident benevolence. And I think that this is something that can help create a more engaging conversation when you do it. What in the world does that mean, right? You have to unpack that a little bit. Confident benevolence. So, we know what confidence means. A confident person is someone who is very sure of themselves. But a lot of times, as a communicator, if you’re extremely confident, you might also come across as cocky, or like a showoff, or maybe closed off to feedback or uninterested in others. So, confidence is a good thing to a point. But it needs to be tempered with something else. And that’s where the benevolence comes in. So benevolence, as I understand it, is good will and wanting good for others. Expecting good from others and wanting the best for others. So it is definitely the opposite of confidence, in the sense that confidence is very self-focused, and benevolence, I think, is kind of other-focused.

And when you marry the two, when you exude confident benevolence, what that means is you’re not so focused on the other person that you have no confidence in yourself or that you put yourself down or that you kind of act like a doormat of some type. But you’re also not so confident that you’re oblivious to the other person’s needs and interests, and that you’re adjusting yourself to them. And that you’re maybe orienting the conversation around an interest in them, without negating yourself. That’s my perception of what confidence benevolence means. And I think that it makes for a killer combination that is very powerful. It’s very attractive to people, because people tend to be attractive more to confident people than to unconfident people. But we do find it a turnoff when a person is showy, or a showoff or seems self-absorbed. All right, so that’s my first tip!

My second tip is show enthusiasm. Because I think that enthusiasm is kind of like the secret sauce of being an engaging communicator. If you are upbeat, and if you are cheerful, and if you are positive, it’s a lot more fun to talk to you than if you’re down or doubtful or disengaged or disheartened. Now, we can’t go through life finding everything to be exciting, and you’re not always going to be happy. But in general, you need to err on the side of being more on the enthusiastic side of the spectrum when you’re trying to convey something to others. Because it will make it easier for them to listen to you and they will feel compelled to listen to you. We are just naturally born to seek positivity from others, and we’re repelled by people who are negative, or unexcited, or unenthusiastic. So you need to be enthusiastic about them and genuinely interested in what they have to offer, and kind of positive about yourself and about the conversation. And that makes you compelling. That makes you engaging.

My third tip is related – all of these, actually, all of these are related. I have to tell you, it’s very difficult to slice them apart, but I’m trying to kind of deconstruct something that seems really fuzzy to explain, and make it a lot more actionable and practical for you. So third tip, to be interesting, be interested. I think this originally came from someone like Napoleon Hill or Zig Ziglar or Jim Rohn or one of these gurus of the self-help world. But I really find that to ring true. When we are so consumed about, “Does this person like me? Am I interesting enough? What do I have to say that’s so interesting?” You’re so self-focused that you become uninteresting. But if you flip that and you take a lot of that natural ambivalence or concern or worry that you have about being interesting and just flip it into being interested, and then find what’s interesting about this other person. In one of my vlogs that I made about networking – I’ll link to it in the show notes – I said that you should be a fascination detective. That was kind of a phrase I made up for this concept of being interested in order to be interesting. Because I think that everybody you meet knows something that you don’t know, has something interesting to contribute to you, and you should at least seek to find out if they do. And assume they do and find out. So, shift your interest towards them. It’ll take the pressure off of you. It’ll take your own focus off of you and it’ll allow you to be a very engaging conversationalist because you’re going to be focused on them instead of with your head in some other business. So be interested to be interesting.

My next tip, number four, is for you to exhibit authenticity. Now, this is a topic I’m going to vlog or blog or podcast about more. I have already in the past. I find it so fascinating, this thing about authenticity. Because I think it’s kind of a paradox a little bit, but that’ll take me down a detour toward a little rabbit hole and I’m not going to go there. Halelly, don’t go there! Btu what I mean by that is you have to be real. People can sense when you’re being fake. So if you think about what I just said to do, which is to be interested and to be enthusiastic, you also have to be sincere! You have to be real and genuine about it. And yes, with some people, and in some situations, and for some of us, that actually might be harder than it sounds. Because sometimes, on the face of it, someone might seem uninteresting or a conversation might be something that you’re not interested in having in the moment. But you have to be authentic. If you’re trying so hard to make a good impression or to fake something or to pretend you are somebody you’re not, ultimately people are going to sense it and it’s going to repel them from you, not compel them to you. And you can’t really sustain fake for a long time. So you need to be real.

Tip number five is to be congruent. This is actually a tip that I really share a lot. In almost all my workshops, this comes up a lot. Because it’s about making sure that you’re matching the verbal message you’re conveying with a nonverbal message that you’re conveying. If you think about it, people are rigged to try to understand your message from multiple sensory stimuli. So they’re listening to your voice, they’re listening to what words you’re using, but they’re also paying a lot of attention to the nonverbal qualities of your voice, for example. Like how are you saying this in terms of the loudness of your voice? Or how fast you’re saying it or how much variance there is in the tone that you’re using. People are listening very carefully to try to gleam how you feel about what you’re saying and how you feel about them and the situation from the tone and the vocal qualities in your message. And not only that, if you’re face-to-face, they’re also watching to see what visual cues you’re giving them as you’re saying your message, as you are communicating. So when you are saying certain words they’re paying close attention to how you’re saying them, in terms of what is your facial expression – like are you smiling or not? Frowning or not? Are your shoulders relaxed or are they hunched up? Are you furrowing your brow? Are you relaxed in your body or are you tense in your body? What are your arms doing? Are you fidgeting with your hands? Are you kicking your feet? Are you shifting from side to side? How close are you standing to them? Everything about how you’re saying it is being registered, subconsciously, actually for both of you. You’re not aware you’re sending that message most of the time, and they may not even be aware that they’re registering it, but they are.

And so being congruent, similar to authenticity, means being aligned. Making sure that you’re not creating any kind of a mismatch, intentionally or unintentionally, between the words that you’re saying and the way that you say them. Because what people do, again, subconsciously probably, and within milliseconds, is they quickly judge to see how credible what you’re saying is if compared with how you’re saying it. And if there seems to be some kind of a mismatch between what your words are saying and between what the voice and visual elements of your nonverbal behavior are saying, people’s brains will tend to actually believe the nonverbal message over the verbal message. So if you’re choosing your words very carefully but the rest of you is not communicating exactly the same congruent, aligned message, it’s going to cause what is called in the social psychology cognitive dissonance in the other person. They can’t hold two truths at the same time that are opposites. Like you can’t have two things be true at the same time if they seem like they’re giving opposite messages. And so when they perceive that conflicting message between what the words are saying and what your nonverbal are saying, they have to choose one as more true. They have to choose one to go with, to believe. And they’ll actually discount your words when there is a mismatch between what your words are saying and what your body is saying. So you’ve got to walk your talk. You’ve got to make sure that you’re conveying everything in an authentic and congruent way. I wrote more about this, I can link to it in the snow notes.

So, my sixth tip for you, to become a more engaging communicator, is that you need to project openness. That means that you have to be willing to listen and to take in the other person’s point of view and perspective, and you need to seem and be approachable and not arrogant, not self absorbed, not aloof, not so sure of yourself and your perspective that you don’t want to hear what the other person has to say. We definitely find it off-putting when we’re communicating with someone who seems like they are completely not open to entertaining a different perspective, or that they’re so self-absorbed that they’re really not very interested in what you have to say. We sense that and we’re repelled by it. So if you want to be an engaging communicator, one what repels others to you, you have to project openness. This is something that you need to temper with that confidence that we were talking about earlier. So for example, I see this a lot when I help train people to be facilitators, to do the work or to be public speakers, to do work like I do. Because a lot of times, we’re so focused on coming across as credible and competent and as knowing our stuff that sometimes we can come across as really, really aloof as a result of it. And actually creating a wall between us and the audience – whether it’s an audience of one or many. And when people sense that, they kind of shut down. If you put up a wall between you, you’re not engaging. You’re not compelling. You’re repelling them with your wall. So, you need to break down that wall and that means that you have to be comfortable with being vulnerable. You have to be comfortable with having someone disagree with you. You have to be comfortable with having someone tell you something that isn’t as pleasant to hear as you would have hoped. But that’s the only way to be disarming and engaging.

And my final tip is you have to demonstrate trust. If you want to build trust with someone, you have to demonstrate that you trust them and that you’re trustworthy. So behaviors that help to contribute to this are actually everything that I’ve listed so far, but also being someone of your word. Being someone who says they’ll do and then does what they said they’ll do. So you have to give other people also the benefit of the doubt that they will do the same. Now, of course you don’t want to just trust people blindly, even when they give you reason not to. But what I’m suggesting is if you want to be an engaging communicator, you might want to suspend your suspicion, you might want to suspend your judgment and give people the benefit of the doubt. Give them that initial trust. In the literature it’s sometimes called a swift trust or benevolent trust. It’s assuming the best in people. Now, if you’re speaking with someone that you know is a proven liar, an untrustworthy person, a criminal and so forth, you probably aren’t going to be that worried about having an engaging and open conversation with them and I don’t know why you’re talking to them, but whatever you’re doing, this is an outlier situation. But I’m talking about in most of your conversations, with your staff members, with your boss, with your colleagues, with your loved ones, with your friends, with people that you meet in a networking event, with anybody that you come across with, if you’re willing to believe that most people are good in their nature and have good intentions – which I definitely do – then you need to demonstrate trust and be willing to give it.

So that feeling, actually, gets picked up by the person you’re talking with, and what we know from a lot of the research behind influence, especially I like how Robert Cialdini describes it in his book Influence – which I can link to in the show notes – he says that there is this really deep sense of reciprocity. We’re compelled to reciprocate. So when someone else gives you kindness, you feel like, and this is a subconscious sensation most of the time, you feel almost indebted to them to give them kindness back. If they give you curiosity, you feel compelled to give them curiosity. If they give you a gift, you feel compelled to give them a gift back. And so when someone gives you trust, you actually are going to be compelled by your biology and by your psychology to trust them back. So this sense of reciprocity can be a very virtuous cycle when you’re thinking about creating an engaging communication environment.

In this short solo podcast episode, what I’ve tried to convey to you are the different ways – and there are probably a zillion others – where I could break down how someone can be and how you can be a more engaging communicator: by exuding confident benevolence, by showing your enthusiasm, by being interested to be more interesting to the other, by exhibiting authenticity, being congruent, projecting openness and demonstrating trust. I’m really curious to hear what you plan to try if there is a new idea or new nugget in here that you hadn’t really thought about or maybe just hadn’t practiced. I’d love to hear what came of it. Please write me in the comments or write me an email, halelly@talentgrow.com, and I would love to hear from you. And also as I said earlier, if something about this causes you to have a question, or a, “Yeah, but …” kind of reaction, or maybe just an example of where it didn’t work for you. I’d love to hear that too.

And as always, I’m very interested in hearing what else you want me to cover on this podcast, since it exists for your benefit. So I sometimes operate in the dark. I have to assume what you’re interested in, based on what people seem interested in in the audiences that I speak to and people in my workshops and my own journey as a leader and others that I’ve coached, but I’d love, love to hear from you, since you listen to this podcast. You are my target audience. I need to hear from you. Please, please let me know. But wait, there’s more! There is a free download that you can go and grab from the website. It is called “10 mistakes that leaders make and how to avoid them,” and I created it just for you, listeners of the podcast TalentGrow Show. I hope you’ll find it useful. All you have to do is just go in the show notes, you can enter your email address and that lets you get the link to the download and also it allows you to stay in touch with me via my free newsletter that comes out on the first and third Tuesday of every month and of course it’s completely free and gives you a very, very quick upbeat tool, tips, links, things that you can use to upgrade your own leadership skills. Go grab that tool. It is also on www.talentgrow.com/10mistakes. So I hope that you go grab that, I appreciate that you’ve listened and in the meantime, until the next episode of the TalentGrow Show, make today great. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist and this has been episode 25. Ciao.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.

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