By: Kevin Daum
Want to be successful? You have to communicate effectively. Here are 7 practices to master.
It doesn’t matter whether you are in the business of delivering products or services–either way, your success depends heavily on communication. When things go wrong, you can almost always trace the problem to a breakdown in communication. And when things go right, it’s usually great communicators who helped create the successful results. It’s a necessary skill in every aspect of business, social and family life. How you communicate will determine if you lead, command respect, earn trust and are well liked. Poor communicators will suffer from confusion, low self-esteem and frustration.
Many of you have experienced great communicators such as Presidents Reagan and Clinton, and most of you have suffered through that boring lecture or maddening argument from a person who just couldn’t make their point in a way you could comprehend. No need for you to be the offender. Just emulate these seven traits, and you’ll rise to your highest potential and enjoy life along the way.
1. They Connect
So many people begin with their own agenda. They have something to say or prove, and so they just start right in without considering the person on the other end. Often they simply broadcast their message, assuming people will think it’s the most important information in the world. Amazing communicators know that people won’t start listening unless they connect intellectually and emotionally. There are too many internal voices and too much outside stimulus. Know your audience and start by conveying an emotional anecdote that shows your common perspective. People say that, when Bill Clinton talks with you, he makes you feel like you are the only person in the world. Let your listeners feel your empathy and know you value their importance.
2. They Engage
Next to boring lectures and overbearing shouting, I find the most frustrating communication to be where I have to carry the entire conversation. Amazing communicators know how to give and take in a reciprocal manner. Not only do they initiate conversation, they help drive the direction and encourage others to take part. They often mirror by repeating others’ comments, concerns and feelings in a manner that shows understanding and interest. To be an amazing communicator, you should be well informed and yet ready to learn, listen and participate.
3. They Disarm
People are naturally on the defensive from over-communication these days. Amazing communicators are able to lower the defenses of those with whom they communicate. It’s not that they are manipulative; rather they are comfortable, humble and authentic. They show genuine interest in the other person and use humor and authenticity to make themselves likable and nonthreatening. Get comfortable and confident in your own skin so you can give good energy in conversation and from the podium.
4. They Focus
If you want to lose an audience, directionless rambling is an easy way to do it. Amazing communicators are organized in their communication. If presenting, they carefully structure the ideas and stories to hold audience interest and make their points. They also work for consistency, since contradiction kills credibility and makes inner voices grow loud. Plan your conversations, thinking through what comes out of your mouth. Set structure to your speech and soon you’ll be able to communicate ideas in an efficient and powerful way.
5. They Clarify
The most interesting conversations can delve into great detail. If you overwhelm your listeners, they will zone out from confusion or boredom. Reagan was best known for being simple and clear. Don’t assume just because you understand what you’re saying that your audience does. Amazing communicators find ways to simplify complex concepts without being condescending. Check in during the conversation to make sure everyone is still on board.
6. They Reinforce
How many times have you heard a speaker or had a conversation and, later, when asked what you remember, come up with a big fat zero? Don’t blame yourself. Communication is the responsibility of the communicator. Amazing communicators understand people only retain ten percent of what they hear, and they are artful at reinforcing key points through storytelling, context and repetition. They do this without coming off as redundant or preachy. No one did this better than Dr. King. Make an effort to be dynamic and thoughtful in your delivery so listeners get depth and emphasis rather than a miscellany of concepts. What’s the point of pontificating if no one gets it?
7. They Practice
Most amazing communicators didn’t start that way. They learned from experts, practiced with coaches and studied technique. By committing time to improving, you are showing your friends and colleagues that you respect their time and attention. Chances are you have some weaknesses in your communication that could use improvement. Practice will help you in your life. Sure, there are a few naturals, but most of the professional speakers and leaders practice for many hours. Their business and careers depend on it. And, truthfully, so does yours.