Repetition creates automation. Getting better at anything requires deliberate practice.
Think about the hours one might spend at basketball practice, shooting hoops and mastering drills. These skills eventually become automatic. The same is true for you! We all want to be influential, but few deliberately practice communication skills until they stick.
When we practice, actions become habit and the brain no longer needs to get involved. The body can automatically complete an action while allowing your brain to focus on the strategic aspects of a conversation – not the delivery. Deliberate practice requires feedback for development to improve.
Think back to when you learned how to drive. Your parents taught you when to change gears, brake or accelerate – all while following the rules of the road. It was challenging and frustrating. Just when you got the hang of one thing, it was time to learn something new. Eventually, your practice paid off. Now, you just get in your car and drive.
Being an influential communicator doesn’t just happen. It requires deliberate practice coupled with ongoing feedback from someone you trust.
Four steps to grow your influence and have others act on what you have to say.
1. Break it Down
We’ve heard the saying “quality over quantity.” The same holds true for improving your influence skills. Start first by recording yourself in an upcoming interaction – whether it’s in-person or virtual. Immediately review the playback. Write down everything you see that needs improvement. Then, break it down into manageable pieces. Focus on one habit at a time. Repeated deliberate practice executed in short bursts at regular intervals is better than working on something all day. Practicing in short durations will reinforce your subconscious, creating permanent long-term habits.
2. Put in the Work
Learning something new requires repeated exposure. Studies show that some habits can be solidified with 7 hours’ worth of practice, while others can take up to 7,000. I promise you will see substantial changes in your daily interactions if you’re willing to put in the concentrated effort for each interaction. Set aside five minutes each morning and write down the skills you’re willing to commit to throughout the day. Carry it around with you as a reminder to remain focused in each conversation. You’ll be surprised how quickly your habits begin to change.
3. Get Clear
Goals partnered with practice become a powerful motivator, creating the momentum needed for ongoing improvement. It’s easier to stay motivated when we see ourselves getting better. We get comfortable being uncomfortable because we know change lies ahead. Get clear on what specifically you want to accomplish in the next 30 days. Focusing on 30 days at a time will create instant changes to your influence skills.
4. Seek Immediate Feedback
Practice makes permanent, so what you practice matters. Seeking immediate feedback is crucial to reinforcing what you’re doing and why. Don’t settle for “you did great.” Instead, ask for specific feedback on exactly what worked and what still needs work. Specific feedback helps you create a plan to immediately focus on skills in need of improvement. If you want to grow your influence, start by determining which communication skills need improvement.
Make the commitment today to take to your communication skills from good to influential. It’s worth the work!
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