Tips to improve top-down communication

by Emme Sanders

effective leaders use communication skills as one of their superpowers

Have you ever heard that some people are natural leaders, while others struggle just to lead? Mastering the following communication principles will help you unleash your communication superpower!

Effective communication can be broken down into 5 principles: 

  1. Proxemics
  2. Clear Statements
  3. Active Listening
  4. Duplication
  5. Body Language

#1: Proxemics

In 1963, Edward T. Hall defined proxemics as “the interrelated observations and theory of humans’ use of space as a specialized elaboration of culture”.  Simply stated, it means how we use space to interact with others in our environment.  Using proxemics for specific types of communication is essential.  We can agree that each of the following proxemics create separate levels of comfort, trust and also defensiveness.  Being aware of your proximity to others can help leverage your ability to communicate.

Hall broke proxemics into 4 specific areas:

  • Public Space– Have you ever attended a concert, movie or seen an entertainer?  Then you have experienced public spacing.  Notice how the movie screen, singer or speaker is always about 12-25 feet away from the audience.
  • Social Space– Imagine it’s a beautiful day and you get to spend it at the beach.  Typically, we place our blanket on the crowded beach approximately 4-12 feet from other beachgoers. This is a great example of social spacing. 
  • Personal Space– Have you ever had anyone in your personal space that you didn’t know?  It makes you feel uncomfortable.  Personal space is typically only reserved for family and friends and limited to 4 feet to 1.5 feet.
  • Intimate Space– When patients sit in the dental chair, they trust us with their intimate space.  That can be very uncomfortable for them, and it is our job to remember to honor this space of 1.5 feet or less.   

#2: Clear Statements

The first step in delivering a clear statement, is to clarify in our minds the intention of the message. It’s important that we say what we mean while keeping it factual and to the point. The listener will be able to comprehend the clear and concise message with no confusion. 

#3: Active Listening

Active listening will allow us to accomplish three things: 

  • Build rapport
  • Clearly understand
  • Create trust with our team 

Once mastered, listening can become a superpower.  Do you ever find yourself so focused on what you want to say in response that you stop listening?  Successful communication requires active listening or understanding instead of listening to respond.  Also, nonverbal cues can be used to encourage more conversation.  

#4: Duplication

Duplication means that your message has been delivered in a way that the receiver can repeat or duplicate the message.  

Use these questions to ensure duplication:  

  • What have I been unclear about?  
  • What questions do you have for me?
  • Is there anything else on your mind that you’d like to share with me before we finish today?

#5: Body Language

The use of body language is another superpower that can be used to deliver a message.  Using facial expressions, hand motions and posture can deliver a very compelling message.  When communicating, be intentional about what your body language is “speaking” to the receiver.  

Examples of Positive Body Language:

  • Smile
  • Opened arms for a hug
  • Standing up to welcome or greet someone
  • Engaging eye contact
  • Leaning forward

Examples of Negative Body Language: 

  • Arms crossed over the body
  • Frowning face often in concentration
  • Turning body away from another person
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Looking down
  • On cell phone 
  • Hands on head
  • Rolling eyes

Communication Tip

If you really want to get someone's attention…whisper! People like to be in the know, using the whispering technique shifts our mindset to intrigue and desire to hear the message.

Unleash your superpower!

Understanding and using these five principles of communication will enhance your leadership skills. 

Be direct and clear, listen twice as much as you speak, and observe body language signals, and you will find your way to being a great leader with superpowers.

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