As a commercial real estate professional, you take part in tough conversations all the time. From negotiating with landlords, to delivering not-so-great news to clients, to pitching new business — your communication style plays a huge part in your success or failure on a daily basis.
But when was the last time you took a step back and truly evaluated the ways in which you deliver and receive information?
Many simply get by on the status quo, assuming that what has worked in the past will continue to work. But taking the time to evaluate and improve upon the ways we communicate with others — particularly in difficult discussions — can make us more likeable and ultimately, more successful.
After all, everyone wants to work with people they like.
Here are six ways to become a better communicator:
1. Prepare ahead of time.
Have you ever left a meeting then immediately realized the point you should have made about 5 minutes too late? This scenario is incredibly frustrating, but luckily, it’s avoidable.
Before meetings or phone calls, schedule in a 15 minute block of time on your calendar in which to gather your thoughts, consider how the conversation might unfold and jot down a few points you’d like to get across. By documenting the three or four things you need to convey before walking away from the conversation, you can avoid that feeling of frustration that comes with getting lost in the moment.
2. Don’t show your hand first.
When approaching a difficult conversation or disagreement, it can be tempting to cut straight to the chase, in an attempt to get your point across before the other side has a chance. But in many cases, showing your hand before you’ve gathered all of the information can put you at a serious disadvantage. For example, what if you misunderstood the situation? Acting rashly makes you out to be impulsive and difficult.
Another approach is to start the conversation by asking the other side something to the effect of, “I’d like to discuss X issue with you, but wanted to get your take on it first.” By imploring the other party to speak first, you place yourself in a position to address all of the points, rather than just the ones you initially perceived.
3. Truly listen.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised to find out how many people get this wrong. Often, a client’s biggest complaint when working with a broker is that the broker simply didn’t get what they were looking for, or if they did, they just didn’t care. Skillful listening goes beyond simply hearing; it requires listening until a true understanding is reached.
Often, when people sense that you aren’t interested in understanding, they grow frustrated and give up on trying to make their point known. To prevent this, try these three tips for being a better listener:
- Show signs of understanding. Just by looking like you are listening, you are more likely to reinforce the speaker’s desire to be clear and informative.
- Ask follow-up questions. Don’t just assume you’ve understood someone completely, ask follow up questions to uncover what you might have missed initially.
- Clarify. Once you’ve heard what has been said and asked any necessary follow up questions, respond by summarizing what they’ve said. Start with, “If I’m hearing you correctly, you are feeling that X.”
4. Empathize before you judge.
Often, when we hear an answer we don’t like, our initial reaction is to judge and defend ourselves. But the second you get defensive, you lose. Instead of jumping to explain your own opinion or actions, try seeking a deeper understanding of the other person’s thoughts and motives first.
The expression, “You can’t hate anyone if you know their story,” rings true here. Just by understanding the why of how someone go to where they are, you can react more appropriately and empathetically. Regardless of the content of your response, it will be clear you are coming from a place of compassion rather than frustration.
5. Get comfortable saying “I’m not sure.”
As a commercial real estate advisor, your goal is to add value by demonstrating expertise in your chosen niche or market. But what do you do when you are asked a question to which you don’t have a solid answer? Often, the urge to fudge your way through a response is all too tempting. After all, you don’t want to come off as uninformed.
But the last thing you want is to set off someone's BS detector and get caught in a lie.
Simply answering with “You know what, I’m not sure, but I’ll find out.” positions you as much more credible and eliminates the risk of getting caught and losing someone’s trust. Better yet, you have the opportunity to learn something new.
6. Be succinct.
No one likes an over-explainer. When communicating, your goal should be to get your point across as powerfully and concisely as possible. To do so, try this trick: before you even start speaking map out in your mind how you will begin and end your point. This helps to prevent never-ending explanations and rambling. You’ll also want to judge the body language of the person you’re speaking with. If they start to look past you or fidget, chances are you’ve gone past your point and started to lose them.