Simple, Powerful Methods for Becoming a Great Communicator
A fine orator can make the world dance to his tune. With quick wit, a persuasive voice, and sharp twist to his words he can shift a room’s point of view.
Think about how some of world's greatest (and worst) leaders have swayed entire nations with their words. JFK convincing people that they could – indeed would – go to the moon. Winston Churchill entreating his countrymen to never retreat, never give up, and fight until the end. Abraham Lincoln declaring that all men and women deserve freedom.
These words literally transformed entire nations. They stirred hope in people's hearts and led them to accomplish astonishing things. Men and women have gone into battle because of words. Great companies have been built upon words.
While you may not have any interest in being a world leader, you should have a keen desire to improve your communication skills. It can massively improve your career, your friendships, and your ability to achieve good in the world. Those who communicate effectively get things done. They can lead board meetings, clarify project problems, and perform outstanding customer service.
So how can you improve your communication? Here's how…
It's not just about what comes out of your mouth, it's also about what your body is saying. Non-verbal and non-written cues are often more revealing that what you're actually communicating with your words.
Always make eye-contact, keep your limbs loose and straight, and possibly adopt a power pose (depending on the situation). If you want to communicate openness and empathy, don't cross your arms, but rather, keep them open. Crossing arms can indicate either disinterest or opposition.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it's actually quite smart. Author Olivia Fox Cabane says that thinking about your toes forces your mind to do a full body scan to evaluate your body language. She says:
“…there’s no such thing as too much presence, and presence is always going to improve your charisma immediately. And one of my favorite tools for that is to tell people to focus on the physical sensations in their toes. Like right now, focus on the physical sensation in your toes. And though it may seem slightly quirky it actually is very effective because it forces your brain to sweep your body from head to toe and get you very physically present in the moment.”
Our conversations are filled with everyday watercooler, shooting the breeze, words like:
Those with outstanding communication skills rely much less on conversation crutches. Their speech is sharp, precise, and always to the point. A simple way to avoid these crutches is to speak slowly and not simply to to fill the silence. When you're not comfortable with silence, you tend to babble.
Christopher Walken, William Shatner, and thousands of other actors have perfected this small but rather ingenious tip. In fact, some of the greatest screen legends, laid asunder by debilitating speech impediments, have used this surefire technique and in turn become classics among their peers.
Additionally, we've all encountered someone who simply talks too fast. It's difficult to keep up with them and their ideas. On the other hand, those who speak slowly and clearly are able to articulate their ideas more effectively.
Speaking coach Geraldine Barkworth says:
“Most of us do speak too fast. A slower pace, using gravitas, is restful and impactful. Listeners have time to absorb your words and if you are speaking to them, you want to create a maximum listening environment for your message to be heard.
You do not need to change your essential self and be something you are not. You just need to pause frequently. Imagine where the commas, colons, dashes, full stops and new paragraphs would begin if your talk was in writing. That's where you pause. Give people time to digest. A pause is like a non-verbal full stop. So take a risk and stop. It is only a matter of seconds or a couple of breaths.”
Try having post-it like addendums, in your head, for certain trying and nerve wracking conversations (conversations with a superior, etc.). Rehearse this script, over and over, until those key points have been naturally ingrained into your speech. Repetition is vital in order to create a muscle memory effect between your neural cues and speech.
Meeting with someone new is a daunting task littered with all manner of social landmines. If you're the type of person that's more introverted and less outgoing, try to find common ground when in this situation. The FORD Method (Family, Occupation, Recreation and Dreams) is a nice little trick for engaging a stranger.
People love to feel as though they are the center of attention. If you want to be more persuasive and bring your listener's guard down, occasionally repeat what they are saying and reflect their mannerisms. Make them feel comfortable and repeat their last statements (showing that you're taking an interest in them). This not only shows care and clarifies certain topics, but also keeps you on your toes. "So, just so I'm clear, you're going to buy the tickets for the movie on Sunday?"
Multitasking is great if you're alone but terrible for conversations. Few things make people feel more unimportant than you not listening to them. If you're on your phone, or you computer while trying to maintain a conversation, you'll find your attention all over the place.
You'll miss key parts of the conversation, appear disinterested, and risk losing the respect of the person you're conversing with. Put your phone in your pocket, close your computer, and give the person 100% of your attention.
Everything you say should be tailored precisely to your audience. If you're giving a company presentation, you can use buzzwords that are common in the workplace. However, if you use those same words on a date, you're going to lose and bore people.
If you're interacting with kids, your speech will need to be animated an interesting. If you're conversing with an older adult, phrases that are used by young people might not make sense.
Before you go into any conversation, take time to consider your audience. How do they speak? What words do they use? What words should you avoid?
When communicating, try to always check these boxes: Clear, Concise, Concrete, Correct, Coherent, Complete, and Courteous. If you stick to these guidelines, you'll be persuasive, to the point, and compelling. On the other hand, if you're unclear, rambling, use incomplete thoughts, and are rude, you'll only create more problems.
If you're writing, evaluate your piece in light of the 7 Cs. Does what you've written check each of the boxes? If not, go back through and make changes.
What are the benefits of improving your communication skills and exercising your verbal and written dexterity?
Here are a few benefits that come from bulking up in regards to your communication skills.
If you're not a clear communicator, you'll have to deal with all sorts of misunderstandings. These can cause huge problems, both personally and professionally.
By learning to communicate with absolute clarity and power, you'll improve your relationships in your professional and private life. You'll be able to lead people more effectively and speak into problems with more finesse.
You simply can't build an effective career if you don't know how to communicate well. You won't be able to lead people, negotiate deals, solve relational problems, or give proper instructions.
On the other hand, those who can communicate effectively will find themselves leaping over those who can't. They'll get chosen for choice assignments, picked to head up important projects, and often be promoted.
The best communicators tend to have the most satisfying relationships. Why? Because they can communicate what they desire and can respond well to what other people desire. They're able to articulate relational challenges, interact with problems effectively, and understand an opposing point of view.
Those who can't communicate well will often find themselves frustrated in their relationships, unable to work through the problems they encounter.
Consider how many problems are created simply because people choose the wrong words. They speak too quickly without having a script in their head. Their words don't resonate because they don't know their audience. They create misunderstandings and pain because they're not paying attention to their body language.
Knowing how to speak persuasively and clearly will spare you from so many of these mistakes.
In our fast-paced world, those who don't know how to communicate quickly get left behind. We fire off so many emails, social media updates, and text messages that there's the potential for great mistakes. Those who haven't learned the tips above will make a great many of these mistakes.
However, if you take the time to sharpen and hone your communication skills, you can dramatically set yourself apart from the crowd.
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