The key to building good relationships through effective sharing of information.
By Chuck Groot
"You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere." — Lee Iacocca
The art of communicating is the most important, but also the most challenging tool to master that we possess. To complicate matters, communication occurs on many levels and these levels are often working at the same time. Some of the key forms of communication are:
A basic definition of communication is that in order to communicate you need at least two individuals, both actively participating in some form of dialogue, transferring information to one another.
Simple? Not really.
Communication can be difficult at the best of times even if the dialogue is between two good communicators. If you have one good communicator and one bad communicator your chances of getting the message across are greatly diminished. Finally, when you have two poor communicators trying to understand each other it can be a very frustrating experience.
Whether you are communicating with someone in your family, a friend, partner, employee, boss or customer; clear and concise communication is essential for success whatever your goal may be. The great thing is that we can always work on improving our communication skills.
We'll be looking primarily at verbal communication today.
"To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others." -Tony Robbins
The number one problem people have is that they complicate their message. Here are some simple tips for communicating your message to your audience:
To help set a positive tone for your discussion be sure to express your thanks for the other individual's time. When dealing with an employee for client connect on a personal level if possible.
Be as prepared as possible for your discussion
a. Have all of your facts, figures and relevant information ready in note form to refer to if necessary.
Stick to one point at a time
a) For written and verbal communication, practice being brief yet specific enough that you provide enough information for the other person to understand what you are trying to say. If you are responding to an email, make sure that you read the entire email before crafting your response.
b) It's important to be sure of the result you are after before you start the conversation. Knowing your objective helps you to direct the conversation and to remain on point.
Make sure that your audience acknowledges in some way that they are following you and understand what you are saying
a) Ask them if they understand. Confirm that you have a mutual understanding of what's being communicated. We often think that we've reached a resolution and come to an understanding only to find out that we have completely misunderstood the other person's thoughts.
b) Ask Questions and repeat the Other Person's question
a) Slow Down Your Speaking Speed.
b) Stories are powerful. They activate our brains, make presentations more engaging, make us more persuasive, and can even help us with interviews. Take the time to allow them to be absorbed and fully understood.
c) Think before you speak. Always pause before you speak, not saying the first thing that comes to mind. Take a moment and pay close attention to what you say and how you say it.
"The best leaders.. almost without exception and at every level, are master users of stories and symbols." -Tom Peters
Stay positive – Maintaining a positive attitude is crucial to productive communication. Be constructive rather than negative or complaining.
Agree that it's okay to disagree
Make sure that you're not holding your breath
Listen—even if you don't agree—before you speak
a) Eye contact is crucial.
Take time out when you're becoming overly stressed by a conflicting viewpoint.
a) Up Your Empathy. If you practice taking the opposing viewpoint, you can reduce the difficulty and anxiety that sometimes arises when trying to truly communicate with others.
b) Take notes during or immediately following important conversations. You can refer to these later to refresh your memory or to prepare for further discussion.
a) Never assume what someone is thinking or are going to say, there is an excellent chance you will be wrong.
Communication is about more than just exchanging information. It's about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. Effective communication is also a two-way street. It's not only how you convey a message so that it is received and understood by someone in exactly the way you intended, it's also how you listen to gain the full meaning of what's being said and to make the other person feel heard and understood.
To become a better communicator, study these ideas about effective listening:
Become an engaged listener
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." -Stephen R. Covey
Effective communication is less about talking and more about listening.
a) Understand the emotions the speaker is trying to communicate.
b) When you really listen—when you're engaged with what's being said—you'll hear the subtle intonations in someone's voice that tell you how that person is feeling and the emotions they're trying to communicate.
c) Focus fully on the speaker
d) Favor your right ear, it is linked to the left (emotional/creative) side of the brain
e) Avoid interrupting the speaker until they are finished
f) Show interest in what is said
g) Set aside judgment until it is required
Non-verbal cue and clues are perhaps the trickiest communications to read or interpret but here are a few suggestions.
"I speak two languages, Body and English." - Mae West
a) You can enhance effective communication by using open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person you're talking to.
b) You can also use body language to emphasize or enhance your verbal message—patting a friend on the back while complimenting him on his success, for example, or pounding your fists to underline your message.
c) Lack of eye contact, distraction, or fidgeting are often signs of restlessness or impatience. Yawning or sighing are usually signs of mental or physical fatigue. When you notice these types of non-verbal signals, it's a sign that this conversation is not going to be a productive one. Quickly wrap up the conversation, postpone the conversation, or inquire about the discomfort if your relationship allows.
Keep stress in check
"If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it." -George Burns
To communicate effectively, you need to be aware of and in control of your emotions.
1. Use stalling tactics to give yourself time to think. Have a question repeated, or ask for clarification of a statement before responding.
2. Pause to collect your thoughts. Silence isn't necessarily a bad thing—pausing can make you seem more in control than rushing your response.
3. Make one point and provide an example or supporting piece of information
4. Deliver your words clearly. Speak clearly, maintain an even tone, and make eye contact. Keep your body language relaxed and open.
5. Wrap up with a summary and then stop.
"The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behavior affect the rights and well-being of others." -Sharon Anthony
a. Direct,assertive expression makes for clear communication and can help boost self-esteem and decision-making. Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest way, while standing up for yourself and respecting others. It does NOT mean being hostile, aggressive, or demanding.
b. Value yourself and your options.
c. Know your needs and wants.
d. Express negative thoughts in a positive way
e. Receive feedback positively.
f. Learn to say "no."
Good, effective communication is essential. We need to study it, improve it daily and practice it. Good luck and good communicating
"Good leaders must communicate vision clearly, creatively, and continually. However, the vision doesn't come alive until the leader models it." -John Maxwell