The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
~ George Bernard Shaw
Effective communication – we all know it’s important, but it’s also one of the things we most often take for granted. We think we’ve expressed ourselves clearly, and we think we’ve heard what the other person is saying. However, if you ask two people what was exactly said during a conversation, you’ll likely get two different accounts of the communication that occurred! Following are seven tips to becoming a better communicator.
Be receptive. Effective communication is a two-way street. Try to enter any communication with an open mind about what the other person is going to say or how they’re going to react to what you say. Try not to let expectations bias what you hear or how you respond.
Start positive – Stay positive. Sometimes communications are challenging or even controversial. Try not to go into a communication with a negative attitude. Instead, tell yourself things WILL work out for the best. People WILL be receptive to what you say. The outcome WILL be positive. Focus on the positive aspects of the message you’re sharing, not the negative. This positive attitude from the beginning, and throughout the communication, even if things get heated, will help you keep your cool under fire.
Listen with an ear for subtext. Oftentimes, people don’t say exactly what they mean. “Beating around the bush” or expecting others to “read between the lines” is all too common. For effective communication, try to be aware of the subtext in what others are saying. On the flip side, to become a better communicator, be direct. Don’t expect others to be able to figure out your subtext.
Eye contact is important. I’m not staying you should aggressively stare down the other person, but keeping eye contact is important when communicating. It helps reassure the other person that you are listening to what they’re saying.
Take turns. Don’t interrupt when the other person is talking, unless it is extremely important. Also, don’t monopolize the conversation on your end. It’s easy to get caught up in your message, but if you want to be a better communicator, listen more than you speak. If you see others eyes starting to glaze over as they zone out and tune you out, it means you’ve been talking too long!
Accept criticism. Not everyone is going to agree with what you say; however, to get your point across and help sway their opinion, you must accept their criticism of your ideas. Try to appreciate why they’re against your position, put yourself in their shoes, and acknowledge that what they’re feeling and thinking has validity. Then rationally explain why you feel your point of view is more appropriate, despite their concerns.
Clarify, clarify, clarify. Don’t assume that you’ve heard what the other person has said and interpreted it correctly. Instead, clarify what they’ve told you. Repeat their ideas and information back to them. Ask questions of the speaker, to ensure you’re both on the same page. To be a better communicator, head off miscommunication by clarifying and be certain you’re both on the same page!
About Colleen Kettenhofen, Leadership Expert
CREDENTIALS: Colleen Kettenhofen is an international workplace and employee management expert, award-winning corporate trainer, and conference keynote speaker. A media veteran, she has appeared on numerous radio shows around the country and has written more than 40 popular articles on diverse workplace issues. Colleen has delivered more than 1,100 entertaining programs in 48 states and five countries. She is the author of 10 published audio programs and two books including SECRETS YOUR BOSS ISN’T TELLING YOU.
Colleen Kettenhofen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions, and seminars by calling (623)340-7690.