Six habits of master communicators

Truly masterful communicators are typically more liked, respected, trusted, connected, successful and valued than their peers. Lisa Stephenson explains how they get there – and how EAs can, too.

Despite a surge in technology-driven displacement of jobs, we humans still have the advantage when it comes to our ability to manage, advise, make decisions, interact, reason and communicate. It should be simple. We all talk, listen and question. But is that really communicating?

The truly masterful communicators are great storytellers, negotiators and influencers, as well as listeners. They’re typically more liked, respected, trusted, connected, successful and valued than their peers.

Here’s how they do it…

Clarify their objective

Before you open your mouth or put fingers to keypad ask yourself what you’re trying to communicate. What are you hoping the outcome of this conversation or message will be? What topics do you need to bring up? Being clear about the purpose of an interaction will help you convey your intended meaning.

Keep it brief

The attention span of humans is now measured at just 8.25 seconds! So, whether you’re delivering a presentation or sending an email, aim for quality over quantity. Although not every interaction can fit into 8.25 seconds, it always pays to impart your main point first. Try author Simon Sinek’s ‘golden circle’ model. State your ‘why’ (your purpose or belief) first then your ‘how’ and ‘what’.

Speak their truth

As trust is seen to be declining worldwide, it’s more critical than ever to be an authentic communicator. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, assures us it’s simple, given that everything in life is subjective and, therefore, true to whoever believes it.

So, instead of walking into a room and saying you have the answer (without giving anyone the opportunity to say otherwise) she suggests starting from the position of: “Here’s what I believe. What do you believe?” This allows others to communicate their truth, too.

Wait their turn

As the son of a tribal chief, Nelson Mandela observed that, in meetings, his father was always the last to speak. When leaders are too quick to share their opinions, they influence (and potentially change) the points that others may have raised had they been given the chance to contribute. Sit back and take in what others are saying.


Great communicators get up close and personal with those around them. They demonstrate that they’re engaged by shutting out distractions, asking lots of questions and listening more than they talk. Crucially, they seek first to understand then to be understood.

They also pay attention to non-verbal cues, which research suggests comprise 93% of communication. People don’t always tell their truth, but they do always show us what they’re thinking and feeling, and what they’re all about. If you concentrate on really ‘seeing’ them rather than just listening, you’ll understand them far better and go on to reap the benefits.

Manage their signals

Just as it’s important to observe the body language of others, you need to consider – and control – your cues, too. Want to show confidence? Prepare yourself and what you have to say. Stand/sit tall, uncross your arms, speak clearly and concisely, look the person in the eye and manage what your face is doing. Remember, you get back what you give out.