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Having a Hard Time Communicating With Your Boss? Read These Helpful Tips from Leadership Behavior Expert Connson Chou Locke

Having a Hard Time Communicating With Your Boss? Read These Helpful Tips from Leadership Behavior Expert Connson Chou Locke

Are you someone who stiffens up when presenting ideas to team leaders? Maybe you always feel anxious about hitting the speak button on Zoom? Don’t worry, you are certainly not alone. 

Author Connson Chou Locke has been part of the academia for more than 20 years. She has been a resource speaker for countless events, a consultant for various multinational companies, and is currently teaching in London School of Economics. Despite all these, this leadership and organizational behavior expert admitted that she wasn’t always used to speaking in a crowd, let alone a small group of people.

“I have always been an introvert,” said Locke in an interview with Jen Horn for Fully Booked Chats. “When I was 15, my mother asked if I could go down to the reception and ask them for a newspaper. I can still remember how scared I was... I was terrified to go down to the reception desk. But now at 55, I’m giving lectures to 200, 300 students.”

While Locke admits she still gets nervous, the Filipino American author said that she can now handle the anxiety and pressure well because of her rich experience as a consultant, researcher, and lecturer. Today, her aim is to help others gain the confidence she did over the years by sharing her experiences and research in Making Your Voice Heard.

“This book is sort of the culmination of essentially my life’s work. It is like my whole journey—from someone who is really shy to someone who is now making my voice heard.”

In her book, Locke shares how to influence people who have more power over them, be more confidently vocal and expressive, and how to have an impact. During the interview with Fully Booked, she shared snippets from her book that you can find useful.

Here are some practical tips you can apply if you’re having a hard time communicating your thoughts and ideas in your workplace.

1. Be patient with yourself.

Upward influence means trying to influence people who are higher than you in the hierarchy—the key is to “manage up.” If you are someone who wants to be heard more, the first step would be to remind yourself that this will not be an overnight transformation. While it’s absolutely possible to improve your communication skills, it will require some time to adapt these techniques.

“Don’t be so hyper critical. I think that's part of the problem for a lot of people who stifle their own voice is they are their own worst critic. Just be more gentle and patient with yourself. And over time, you will improve.”

2. Practice, practice, and practice.

While it is true that different people need different approaches to learning or improving new skills, there’s always a universal application: practice. To hone your communication skills, you have to consciously do it repeatedly. Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t able to do excellently the first few tries because that’s normal. But if you continuously do it, you will definitely see the improvements in no time.

“It’s the practice, it’s really actually doing it. That’s going to help you.I'm not saying that you need to like, do public speaking every day, but you do need to practice. Like that's even the professionals. If I don't lecture for a year, I'm gonna stumble. So I have to keep lecturing on a regular basis in order to keep it up. The book will give you stuff too, but you have to do it.”

3. Learn to take advantage of your tools.

Since the pandemic started, we have shifted from face-to-face meetings to Zoom conferences. We’ve been hearing its negative effects like screen fatigue and how hard it is to connect to people who don’t even have their cameras on. But Locke explained that there are some things to this work-from-home setting that you can use to your advantage and help you speak your mind.

“So what I've found is students who might not normally have spoken up in class are actually participating a bit more because they can type something in the chat.

If you are [also] a woman or a person who's small and has a very quiet voice, when you're in person, in a meeting, you might get dominated by the louder people in the room, or the bigger people in the room. But if you are in an online format, then we all have the same size video box. So you're not going to get dominated by anyone who's bigger because we all have the same amount of space. And if you have a really good headset, then you can be heard, like you can amplify your voice. So I think as long as we're working from home and using online tools, we need to think about how we use them to our advantage.”

4. Be open and understanding.

In every healthy work environment, it doesn’t end with speaking up. Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People also suggests that effective communication means seeking first to understand, then to be understood. The end goal should be towards promoting a healthy communication relationship with your co-workers and peers.

“The best conversations I've had when I'm trying to influence someone is when I start by asking them, what is your perspective on this situation? Where are you coming from? And once I understand them, then it's much easier for me to also be heard. So I really think of influence as a two-way street, and an essential part of it is understanding the other person and being open to their point of view and being compassionate.”

To learn more about how to improve your communication skills, grab a copy of Connson Chou Locke’s Making Your Voice Heard, available on Fully Booked Online.

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