People put up with a lot of quirks in their leaders and coworkers just to reduce the drama and keep the peace. But lack of sincerity grates on the nerves. It’s like trying to satisfy hunger with cotton candy.

Two good questions to ask yourself periodically: What communication sound insincere? How can I become more inspiring and encouraging in the way I interact? Here’s a starter list:

Authentic Communication by Leaders Inspires Others: 6 Ways

Drop Cliché Greetings and Use Personal Greetings

You meet someone in the hallway. A typical exchange:

They: “Hi, how are you?”

You: “Fine. And you?”

They: “Good, thanks.”

Although there’s certainly nothing wrong with this exchange, it’s certainly not inspiring.  Rather, it’s robotic, unthinking, and unmemorable.

Last year, when my husband had surgery, he was at home recuperating for 3 weeks. After he was out and about again, people greeted him with, “Hey, how are you?” He’d respond with, “About 85 percent.” They’d invariable chuckle and stop to comment with something original, “Really? 87 percent? That must mean next Monday, you’ll be 93 percent?” An original conversation typically followed.

Now, of course, you may not want to have a conversation every time you greet someone. But an original greeting (Hey, Brad—how was your commute this morning?) communicates to others that you’re alert, aware, thinking, and seeing them as an individual.

Change Pat Answers to Purposeful Responses

You recognize a pat response when you get one. In a meeting, you bring up a difficult issue your team is facing, and someone responds tosses out, “Well, I’m sure you guys will figure out a way to fix it.”

Or you pass along a suggestion to your manager about a process that you think could increase productivity. Your boss responds, “Thanks. We always appreciate good ideas.” 

Or maybe you express a little anxiety to a colleague about an upcoming client presentation. The coworker, never looking up for her keyboard, reassures you, “Ah, don’t worry about it. I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

Such responses communicate, “I don’t have time to focus on your situation.” Here’s a more meaningful response, for example, when someone expresses concern about an upcoming presentation: “You may want to talk to Ken. He briefed that same client two weeks ago. He may have some insights for you about what they’re expecting.”

Forget Fake Listening; Demonstrate Active Listening

I’ve had way too many of these conversations at a trade-show booth:

Me: “Do you have this book available in Spanish? And do you have them here at your booth or only by special order?”

Agent: “Okay, just give me your card and we’ll add you to our mailing list.”

Such conversations always remind me of the TV interviews by satellite when the host asks a question, and the guest’s earpiece isn’t working. Their response is totally unrelated. When that happens on TV, it’s a tech problem. When that happens in real life, it’s a listening problem.

Forget Flattery, and Offer Sincere Praise

A sincere compliment is specific. Flattery, by its definition, is excessive, exaggerated, and primarily beneficial to the one giving it. A good test of how your praise comes across: Does the person seem pleased or uncomfortable with your comments?

Melt the Plastic Smile, and Offer a Genuine Expression

Do you have the same smile for everyone all the time? Are the eyes involved? I recall someone saying to me once during a 3-day retreat: “You have the saddest smile today. Are you unhappy about what the group plans to do?”  (Yes, I was wearing my plastic smile during that meeting because I disagreed with the direction of the group.)

Insincerity may show up in a generic smile flashed the same way to everyone.

Drop Vague Offers, and Give Real Help

“If I can help you in any way, please let me know” flows freely and frequently—often with little heart. It communicates, “I’ve given no thought at all as to how I might help. But I want to look benevolent, so I’m going through the motion.” If you want to help, offer what you’re willing to do. If you don’t know what you can do to help, mention options and let the other person select or decline.


Sincere communication builds trust for the long-term and inspires the best in people.


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