Communicating with other people is an important part of what we do as lawyers. Here are a few suggestions that I offer to attorneys who want to communicate more effectively, whether it’s with clients, colleagues, or friends and family.
Listen actively to build trust
In a conversation, really listen to what the other person has to say. Listening helps build rapport and trust because it shows that you care about the other person and are interested in the other person’s point of view. Notice your body language, which can convey information that is not revealed by the spoken word. You will miss important information and cues if the focus of your attention is on what you will say next, rather than what the other person is communicating.
Be aware that people have different approaches to communicating with other people and different ways of receiving and processing information. Understanding these differences and taking them into account can help you communicate more effectively with others.
Some differences in communication styles are based on gender or culture. Generally speaking, women tend to be contextual in their process of communicating, while men tend to communicate in a linear fashion and focus their attention on the specific issue being discussed. Cultural differences can be based on ethnicity or geography. Some people are accustomed to communication that is direct and sometimes blunt. Others may be more comfortable with indirect and subtle communication. When differences such as these come into play, it is important to be patient and avoid making judgments based solely on differences in communication styles. For example, it might be tempting for someone accustomed to communicating directly to lose patience with a person who is using subtle language to make a point indirectly and conclude that the person lacks confidence in their point. Jumping to that conclusion interferes with meaningful dialogue.
It’s all in the brain
The way we communicate with and understand each other is also influenced by the different ways our brains receive and process information. Nearly all of us have an innate preference for one of the four different brain typologies described by Katherine Benziger, Ph.D., in her book “Thriving in Mind.”
- Some people have a preference for thinking logically and reasoning to a conclusion. It will be important for them to hear facts, data and specific reasons that lead to a particular result.
- Others think conceptually in terms of patterns and images, and their eyes may glaze over if they feel overwhelmed with facts and rational arguments.
- Those who prefer to think relationally want to understand how the topic being discussed will affect the relationships among the people involved.
- For those who are well organized and methodical, a presentation about concepts without a step-by-step description of a process to follow may cause them to feel lost.
Keeping these differences in mind will help you tailor communication to your audience, whether you’re speaking with an individual or making a presentation to a group.
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