Get People To Understand You With These 3 Steps

Mar 03, 2017 1 Min Read
understand you
Strategies to Help Others Understand your Intentions

The human brain likes to minimise effort, says psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson – and unfortunately, that often means other people aren’t making much of an effort to understand you. As humans, she says that:

“we want to spend as much effort and energy trying to understand something as we have to, but not an ounce more. We unconsciously rely heavily on what we expect a person to be like. . . stereotypes, even ones you don’t believe, can influence how you see another person.”

Of course, the upshot is that you might be misunderstanding other people, and they’re probably doing the same to you. As I discuss in my new book Stand Out, however, it’s essential to ensure that your ideas are really being heard, so they can have the impact they deserve. Halvorson, the author of No One Understands You and What to Do About It, shares her strategies for minimising communication missteps and helping others see you more clearly.

Show warmth and competence

To be perceived as a likeable leader, you need to show two things: warmth and competence. “Unfortunately, what most of us do, especially in the work context, is we work hard to show our competence, but we forget to show warmth,” says Halvorson. “That turns out to be a toxic combination, because if you’re competent, but not warm, that makes you a potent foe. It makes others feel that you’re someone that I need to be really careful of.”

Leaders make this mistake all the time, they’re so busy trying to prove that they’re competent enough to lead that they forget to signal warmth, which is really the foundation of trust, she says.

So how can you effectively signal warmth? Eye contact is key, she says. She also recommends “leaning forward a little bit during conversations, having a nice open body posture, and nodding when people are speaking to indicate understanding.”

Remove ambiguity

Too often, we assume we’ve communicated something thoroughly and effectively – yet our colleagues still haven’t gotten the message. “If you ever say to yourself, ‘I assume they know,’ they don’t,” says Halvorson. Don’t be afraid to repeat an important message multiple times, and in a multitude of ways. When in doubt, ask your colleagues and employees what they’ve heard you say, and make sure it’s accurate.

Take the ambiguity out of it and make it very clear that you are an ally, and a powerful one. Then you inspire tremendous trust and tremendous loyalty, and the upside of that is really incredible.

Make others feel they’re on your team

It’s easy for people to resent someone who seems successful. They may tag you as overly ambitious, or a climber, or an arrogant egotist. You can avoid that fate, says Halvorson, if you “try to create commonalities with those people and make it very explicit. . . If you really wanted to get those people on your team, a good approach would be to tell a few more stories in the beginning that are about your foibles and your struggles,” she says.

“It is one of those things that I think bonds people. You immediately feel at ease with someone who is willing to tell you that they’ve screwed up or there are things that they don’t do well, mistakes that they keep making – that how you came to be an expert was not this smooth, flawless journey of smiles and accolades. It had many challenges in it.”

Overall, she says, if you have friction with a colleague who may feel threatened by you, “really ramping up connections with that person, pointing out similarities, pointing out shared experiences, is a great way to turn you from a them to an us.”

In a busy world, it’s easy to be misunderstood. But following these three strategies is likely to help your true intentions shine through.

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Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant, professional speaker, and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, TIME, and Entrepreneur. She is the author of ‘Reinventing You’ and her book, ‘Stand Out’, was named the No. 1 Leadership Book of 2015 by Inc. magazine and was a Washington Post bestseller.

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