The foundational 5 C’s of interpersonal connection.
Gifted communicators have a leg up in the professional world. Their beliefs and opinions resound, while their more subtle counterparts never get the attention of organizational influencers. For some, it’s intuitive and comes naturally, while others struggle to find the right words to say or how to say them. Fortunately, communication is a skill that can be honed to increase your visibility in the workplace, boost your confidence, and grant you the ability to better interpret the behavior of others.
There are five communication modalities. Each of these represent a different outcome for the people involved in the flow of information. It’s important to understand each of these formats so you can categorize information through these lenses.
- Connective – brings people closer together by sharing common interests.
- Confrontational – creates or breaks tension through heightened emotion.
- Convincing – persuasiveness that sways people toward an idea or movement.
- Collaborative – orients people toward a common goal.
- Curious – establishes a desire to learn something from the other party.
Small talk is a critical part of bonding. It allows us to quickly assess what we have in common with someone and whether we’d like to spend more time with them. Whether it’s meeting someone at a coffee shop or chatting with coworkers before the start of a meeting, we use small talk to find comfort in small connections.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who is incapable of or unwilling to participate in small talk? It’s really uncomfortable, like skipping foreplay. As social creatures, we’re constantly scanning for nodes of connection with other people. We crave being liked and having a tribe, so we use communication as a means to find out where we stand. Connective communication happens dozens of times every day. Some examples:
- Trying to catch an attractive person’s eye on the train and smiling at them when you finally do.
- Asking about someone’s hometown to relate to their come-up story.
- Admiring a photo of your boss’s family in the hope that she’ll like you more.
- Complimenting a stranger’s shirt to make them feel good about their outfit.
- Lamenting your favorite sports team’s loss with a fellow fan.
Connective communication is a critical component of networking and relationship-building. The ability to strike a conversation with someone just for the sake of bonding opens you up to a wonderful part of being human. Improving this skill is easy. Twice a day for a week, make it a goal to start a conversation with someone you don’t know well. It can be as simple as complimenting a stranger’s clothes.
Disagreements ultimately begin or end in confrontation; communication that occurs when multiple parties are in conflict with each other. There are so many different personality types, goals, beliefs, traumas, and pecking orders that it’s impossible to have a community without them due to differences in perspective and the degrees of power that people have.
Given it’s uncomfortable nature, confrontation sometimes escalates from a conversation about a single issue to a swath of emotionally-charged personal attacks. The ability to gracefully create or break tension via healthy confrontation is a highly sought-after skill in relationships and leadership.
There are two types of confrontation: proactive and reactive. Proactive confrontation can be used to set expectations. It occurs when you express your opinion or preference for something before identifying the other person’s behaviors. Some examples:
- As a manager, explaining the company policies to the team before anyone breaks the rules.
- As a new romantic partner, telling the other person that you don’t like a genre of music.
- As a basketball teammate, sharing your expectation that people call out screens before the first practice.
- As a new business partner, establishing the compensation plan up front so there aren’t surprises later.
Reactive confrontation is the act of responding to an undesired behavior with the intent of ensuring it doesn’t happen again. This can be an emotional conversation, as one or more parties often feel they’re right and the other side is wrong. Some examples:
- A manager reprimanding a subordinate for lying to a sales prospect.
- A girlfriend confronting her boyfriend after finding texts from an ex on his phone.
- A basketball player yelling at her teammate for not calling out a screen.
- A mother grounding her son for sneaking out of the house.
How you behave in these situations says a lot about your maturity and ego. Emotions are inevitable, but how you communicate your emotions can be the difference between a future promotion and a termination.
In meditation there’s a phrase expressed as, “getting in the gap”. Getting in the gap is the act of identifying your emotion and, in real-time, deciding how you want to behave. It plays out like this:
You’re on a trip with a friend. You didn’t use the GPS and got lost, so your friend yells at you and calls you an idiot, which makes you angry. Instead of worsening the confrontation by firing back with a similar insult, getting in the gap gives you the opportunity to reflect and decide how to respond.
You can better influence outcomes and internalize the lessons to be learned from the confrontation when you get between the emotion and the reaction. It allows you to stay present when others are dominated by their emotions. To improve at this skill, I recommend using a meditation app like Calm, Headspace, or Waking Up to study the art of getting in the gap.
Doing cool stuff requires getting people onboard with your vision. Depending on your pursuit, friends, coworkers, customers, and Instagram followers need to be persuaded that you’re worth spending time and energy on. To garner a following, you have to become comfortable with the act of convincing people to align with your way of thinking.
Good persuasive communication requires emotional intelligence, charisma, and domain knowledge. It can happen in a one-on-one conversation and at scale with thousands of people. A convincing argument compels people to take action. Some examples:
- An employee receiving a budget for a colleague’s retirement party after lobbying the manager for support.
- A start-up CEO raising capital for the business after talking to dozens of investors.
- A boyfriend convincing his partner to go on vacation to Spain instead of California.
- A climate activist generating millions of petition signatures to confront climate change.
To improve as an influencer, it’s important to study persuasive styles of communication. In the book Influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini breaks persuasion into six fundamental characteristics:
- Social Proof
Spend time understanding and practicing these traits. You’ll see your ability to convince others become easier.
Collaboration is the act of working with other people in pursuit of a common goal. It’s the glue that bonds teams together. Without collaboration, a team is merely a group of individuals doing what they think is best. It’s pure chaos and ego. Less talented teams regularly defeat teams with better players because they come together as a stronger unit. The talented but fragmented team never reaches its full potential because the players aren’t able to synchronize. Structuring an environment ripe for collaborative communication takes a few steps:
- Identify the objective or common goal.
- Recruit the people necessary for the project.
- Set a deadline for the project, meeting, etc.
- Explain the parameters to the team.
- Facilitate an open flow of communication.
Every type of communication will manifest in a healthy collaborative environment. You should encourage positive confrontation, curiosity, rapport building, and persuasion as long as the goal is being worked towards and ultimately reached. To improve in this area, try taking on some new projects at work, or put together a fun personal project that others can help with.
Curiosity is the desire to learn or know something and is a core part of the learning process. Without that central desire, you’d be resistant to new information and perspectives, but it is only as good as your ability to retrieve information from other people. This is done by capitalizing on mentorship opportunities and seeking out valuable information from credible people who are willing to help you. Establishing relationships where you can learn from people with experience gives you a massive advantage over counterparts without mentors.
Finding mentors takes courage. You have to be brave enough to make that cold phone call, send that email, or request that in-person meeting to ask for support and guidance. Once the relationship is established, maintain regular contact to maximize your learning opportunities. Omnichannel communication is key, so leverage insights from multiple sources and share it openly with people in your tribe.
Being a skilled communicator is a cornerstone principle of high-performance. It’s also undervalued or oversimplified by many people. By leaning into the five C’s, you’ll rapidly improve your abilities.
Connecting with others increases the number of meaningful relationships that you create. Practicing healthy confrontation grants you credibility and the confidence to uphold boundaries. Convincing others toward your beliefs provides you with a supportive cast. Collaboration gets things done fast. Curiosity enables you to learn. Small gains in each area will have resounding impacts on your personal development.
What is Beanie & Blazer?
Beanie & Blazer is a lifestyle engineering company built to align people’s personal values and goals with their habits and behaviors. Our methodology offers our community clarity of purpose, a tribe of mentors and supporters, and reclamation of time in their busy lives. We systematically train people to become high performers.
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