“First seek to understand, then to be understood”
- Stephen Covey (author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”)
Effective communication involves a lot more than just speaking clearly to your audience without nervously stuttering or writing an email without any spelling mistakes.
Read on to learn about the keys for effective communication:
Probably the most important thing you should learn from this article is that in order to be a “super communicator” you must be a super listener. Effective communication has more to do with listening than any other thing. By this we mean REALLY listening: paying attention and caring for the other person’s needs so that you make sure your message (which can be a simple “uh-huh, I see what you mean.”) is relevant and helpful for them.
Some scholars call this “active listening”, which entails more than just scanning what you’re hearing for something that relates to a story YOU want to tell. Active listening shows that you genuinely care about what the other person or audience feels or thinks, and you can prove this by doing things like:
- Give reassuring sounds and phrases, like “I see”, “aha”, “hmm, I understand”
- Ask questions to clarify the issue and show your interest, and
- Restate the issue to make sure you understood correctly and show that this is important to you.
If you’re trying to come across as an assertive speaker but your hands are shaking, your voice cracks and your eyes are bouncing from one place to another, you can pretty much kiss that image of yourself goodbye.
Also, if you’re trying to make something sound really serious but you look like you’re about to burst into laughter, while twirling your hair around your finger like a 7-year old, nobody is going to take you seriously either.
Make sure the rest of your body is delivering the same message that comes out of your mouth.
And when you’re the one listening and can see the person who is doing the talking, pay attention! That person is sending out clues that well help you uncover the whole truth behind the story!
It’s important to be aware of the emotions and attitudes that one is displaying when in the presence of someone else, too. Are you feeling nervous? Did you just hear something that made you angry or sad? How is that affecting they way you are delivering your message?
This is not about having to have a “poker face” during your entire conversation. It is about being aware of your thoughts and feelings so that you’re certain they do not get in the way of the message you are trying to communicate.
It is OK if, say, a particular story makes you sad and a little teary-eyed but if you’re sobbing uncontrollably others might become more concerned with making you stop than with what you have to say. Don’t distract them from what you consider is the really important issue.
Trying to ask for directions to a farmer in Italy when you only speak English and the farmer only speaks Italian constitutes a problem, for sure. But sometimes both people can speak the same language and still not understand each other’s words.
Make sure you only use slang or professional jargon if you are 100% sure everyone that is listening (or reading) can understand your words. Also, if you have a heavy accent that is unfamiliar to those around you, try to speak just a little slower…and stop talking and ask what is wrong if you start getting any puzzled looks!
Show some respect!
Make your mother proud and show some good manners when you speak AND when you listen.
Try your best to not interrupt, insult, scream, burp, pick your nose or teeth, roll your eyes, or make fun of the other person (although best friends can sometimes put up with a little teasing!).
You would be surprised to know how many people do not find these suggestions so obvious.
Continue on to these helpful posts to keep learning about how to communicate effectively:
- Find out How To Make Small Talk
- Learn about some Tools to Improve Your Communication Skills
- How can I Connect with People?
- My coworker is a nightmare. How can I Deal With Difficult People?
In the end, the key to effective communication really boils down to listening. Listening with your whole body. Listening to what others have to say, but also to the clues that give insight to their thoughts and emotions as expressed in their body language or tone of voice. Also, listening to your own self and to what you are experiencing while you are communicating.
By being an active listener you can reduce misunderstandings and improve the chances that when it is your chance to speak, your message is heard and understood…as you wanted it to be!
Wikipedia.com – Active Listening