Positive Communication: Insights from Julien C. Mirivel and Alexander Lyon

A group of people discussing the effects of positive communication

Positive communication is the art of engaging in conversations and sharing messages to uplift and foster understanding while forming strong connections. "Communication" derives from the word "community," emphasizing its connection to collective involvement rather than individual success. As a result, positive communication serves as a channel for making meaningful connections, nurturing relationships, and strengthening the foundation of our social interactions.

“The word “positive”—it’s about figuring out how to use the power of communication to build upon our confidence and strength as a communicator and create good relationships with others, but also make a social impact, which helps us reach toward some of the greatest virtues, like compassion, courage, and justice. That’s positive communication.”

In a recent episode of Qonversations, Julien C. Mirivel and Alexander Lyon, co-authors of the book “Positive Communication for Leaders: Proven Strategies for Inspiring Unity and Effecting Change” share lessons on how to communicate effectively and more positively. While achieving personal goals is essential, Julien and Alex emphasize that true communication competency involves broader aspects—considering relational and organizational goals and, most importantly, the well-being of others.

Effective communication is critical in the world of leadership. It’s often recognized as the most essential skill for influential leaders. Leaders may establish an environment that promotes development, trust, and teamwork by enhancing their communication skills, which benefits the entire organizational workspace.

“People now recognize that communication is the dominant skill of effective leaders.”

In the interview, Julien and Alex discuss the six parts of their model, which are: greet to create human contact, ask to discover the unknown, compliment to affect people's sense of self, disclose to deepen relationships, encourage to give support, and listen to transcend differences.

 

Greet to Create Human Contact

 

Greetings might seem like a small aspect of our interactions, but Julien and Alex believe they're actually the pivotal opening act of any connection. The weight placed on this seemingly simple gesture stems from its role in shaping our communication and relationship trajectory. A greeting establishes the tone for conversation and contributes to forming relationships. More than a mere acknowledgment, it validates and confirms the relationship itself. A poorly executed or missed greeting can introduce tension, disrupting the natural flow of interaction.

But it's not just about social niceties; a well-executed greeting lays the groundwork for seamless communication in tasks and projects. A strong greeting is the foundation for more efficient collaboration and successful task execution in professional settings.

“If we greet people with intention—are authentic and sincere— the other person will feel that with much more impact.”

Ask to Discover the Unknown

 

When we’re talking about leadership, there's a hidden gem that few truly harness: the power of asking questions. Asking the right questions isn't just a skill but an assertive leadership behavior. 

Alex mentions an interesting statistic that questions, despite making up a small part of communication, drive a whopping 60% of discussions. This shows how influential questions are in guiding conversations toward solutions. But an important thing to remember is that people should avoid asking a question and immediately offer an answer because it can close the door to fruitful discussions. True engagement blooms when leaders pose questions and actively listen, allowing diverse viewpoints to flourish.

Learning to ask open-ended questions will enhance communication skills and encourage a more inclusive and creative team environment. Leaders who grasp this skill foster richer discussions and a culture where everyone feels valued.

“The way to kill a good discussion is to supply the answer as the leader because it then sounds like they already have an idea, and people will just go with that. But it’s often going to close off the conversation.”

Compliment to Affect People's Sense of Self

 

The most important thing to understand about human communication is that what we say and do significantly impacts people. It affects them and shapes who they become in the future.

According to Julien, complimenting is just one of the many ways to affect individuals positively. It's a controllable behavior that carries immense weight in organizational leadership. By acknowledging strengths and highlighting positive attributes, leaders fulfill a fundamental need for individuals to feel valued, respected, and included.

Alex further emphasizes the lack of positive feedback and compliments in today's workplaces. In the rush of daily tasks, leaders often focus on pointing out flaws and areas needing improvement. However, he highlighted the transformative power of slowing down and investing in people through compliments and positive reinforcement. When consistently practiced by leaders, such gestures make a profound difference in employee morale and motivation.

“There are many other ways of affecting people positively, but we focus on complimenting because it's a controllable behavior. It's something that matters in the world of leadership because people need to feel valued. They need to feel respected; they need to feel included.”

Disclose to Deepen Relationships

 

Creating meaningful connections doesn’t happen naturally; we actively engage in it. It involves sharing our true thoughts, emotions, and genuine selves. However, leaders often maintain a professional facade, which can create distance as people hesitate to approach them due to their status. To break this barrier and form authentic connections, leaders are encouraged to share aspects of their professional struggles and personal lives—not to become best friends with their team, but to connect as whole individuals beyond their roles. By sharing minor weaknesses that can be laughed at, leaders pave the way for others to reciprocate and share their experiences.

“Disclosure is kind of the magic wand of communication because when you do it, other people will reciprocate.”

When discussing disclosure, an important thing to mention is the impact of purposeful icebreakers. Icebreakers are activities used in professional settings to ease into discussions or tasks. However, these activities can sometimes be perceived as superficial or merely an attempt to lighten the mood. Alex suggests a shift toward icebreakers with purpose, aimed explicitly at prompting individuals to self-disclose comfortably.

For example, take the “Highlight, Hardship, Hero” exercise, where participants share personal highlights and hardships and mention a personal hero. These prompts allow brief but insightful glimpses into individuals’ lives, giving a sense of shared experience and understanding. These activities go beyond breaking the ice; they create spaces for individuals to connect authentically, improving empathy and understanding among team members. 

 

Encourage to Give Support

 

Human communication is a way of giving, just as much as giving money is. We use it to give love, affection, and encouragement to others; we use it to provide people with the social support they need to develop and succeed. Reflecting on the content of his book, Julien outlines the inevitability of crises and hardships in any workplace. Leaders, therefore, play an essential part in leading individuals through such trying moments, whether personal challenges, professional losses, or organizational changes. 

 

Listen to Transcend Differences

 

Mastering the art of active listening is a significant task, widely acknowledged as a key trait among successful leaders. The higher you go in organizational life, the more leadership responsibilities you have, the more you have to listen. On average, leaders listen twice as much as the regular employee. Given that statistic, it is of utmost importance to learn how to listen, which then enables leaders to grasp the needs of others, understand their perspectives, and empathize with them. This deep understanding significantly enhances a leader's decision-making process, ensuring that decisions align with the realities of those they lead.

“It's such a compliment, such a classy move for a leader to really listen to their people. It makes a big impact when employees know they have the leader's full attention. It's a powerful behavior for positive communication.”

 

Effective communication, as advocated by Julien Mirivel and Alexander Lyon, serves as a guiding principle for impactful engagement. It's not just about what is said but how it is communicated—considering others, building relationships, and striving for collective betterment.

In essence, the power of positive communication lies in its ability to help individuals reach their goals and in its capacity to shape a compassionate, just, and harmonious society. It stands as a testament to the potential of human interaction, serving as a catalyst for positive change and enduring relationships.

 

Listen to the full conversation.

 
 
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