Being a credible communicator—someone who says what they mean, clearly and consistently—is crucial to gaining people’s trust and cooperation, especially in the workplace. When we fail to come across as credible, team members are likely to question our motives, meet our directives with resistance and, ultimately, give us less than their best efforts.
Distinguishing oneself as a trustworthy professional—and the kind of leader people respect, believe in and want to give their all for—requires communicating with credibility backed by diplomacy and tact. Gaining those skills, however, first requires an understanding of how not only our choice of words but also the way we say them—which includes our tone of voice and inflection, facial expressions and body language—are perceived.
For the most part, everyone wants to be a diplomatic and tactful communicator—after all, we don’t speak and act with the explicit intention of provoking and offending your team members. But we're also a human being, with our own ingrained habits and unconscious biases, so sometimes we might be completely unaware of how we are seen, heard and understood when we communicate with others.
Here are five actions to help you become a more diplomatic, tactful and credible communicator:
- Take time to organize your message and carefully think through its meaning and objective. Know exactly what you want to convey. Starting with clear, direct communication opens the door to a positive interaction.
- Repeat your message. This helps to affirm and clarify what you’re communicating. Often, saying something twice, with careful attention to your tone and pacing, is enough to clear up any confusion in the minds of listeners.
- Welcome two-way communication. Ask and allow for questions in a way that’s genuinely encouraging. Then, really listen to each question, without sighing or rolling your eyes, and respond thoughtfully, thoroughly and respectfully.
- Be open to different perspectives and respect others’ rights to their own opinions. Let people know that they can challenge or disagree with what you’re saying without having the interaction escalate into conflict. When you respect others’ need to be heard, they’re more likely to respect you and listen in return.
- Know your audience, including any potentially sensitive language or topics to avoid. Be mindful of their expectations of you. Then, applying diplomacy and tact, adjust your message in a way that makes you seem most credible.
Developing the hallmarks of a diplomatic and tactful communicator takes dedication and practice. Consider seeking out a few people you trust, such as colleagues or mentors, and asking them for specific, honest feedback on your communication style, body language and habitual behaviors. With some investment of effort, you’ll come across as credible and be a more successful and appreciated communicator.