Simple Steps to be a Master Communicator
Communications is the key to your success. We can have the greatest product, mission, or idea in the world, but if no one hears it, what good is it? At the same time, we can whisper a good idea, and it can change the world. Your ideas, your mission, your words need to be heard. Here are some things you can do to to be a better communicator and make sure they are.
The most important thing we can learn about speaking is: stop speaking.
The biggest mistake most people make is to talk (and talk and talk and talk) without pausing to listen or allow the other person to react. To be a better communicator, speak in splashes of information, not rivers. When we break our message into parts, we give the listener an opportunity to respond, which might include the important message that the listener does not understand what we are saying.
Want a reputation as a great conversationalist? Talk less. Listen more.
When a listener is stuck on something, the listener is locked into a repeating cycle of an unresolved issue. We may be on Point Six. The listener is still trying to understand Point Two. No matter what we say, if the listener is stuck, the other person does not hear what we are saying now.
No one ever learned anything by talking.
If you want a formula, try this one. Speak 1/5th of the time. Let the other person speak the other 4/5. To show you are listening, ask questions that begin with, “Who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how.” Open-ended questions are the perfect way to encourage the other person to open up and propel the conversation.
When we do speak, make every word count more. Avoid cliches and trite phrases. If you can eliminate phrases such as the ones below, you will be amazed how much people will notice the difference.
- “No problem.” When someone says, “Thank you,” respond with “you’re welcome,” or “my pleasure.” The phrase, “No problem,” tells the other person, “I have completed what you requested me to do, and I have determined your request has not negatively impacted me.” While it may be a common term, you do not want to be a common communicator.
- “Lean in.” This overused phrase sounds cool. But its real meaning betrays you. Here’s what it really says, “I am going to do something, but the best you are going to get from me is a strong tilt.” Leaning things fall over. Rather than lean into anything, move. “Help,” people. “Work on,” problems. Almost anything is better than leaning.
- “Raise the bar,” “deep dive,” and similar cliches need to go somewhere and never return. These are quick cheats, and while they once may have had meaning, they are worn out. There are already too many elephants in the room, and there is so much “circling back,” that everyone is dizzy. If something is so obvious it goes without saying, don’t say it. Look for new ways of expressing old ideas. People will remember you and what you said.
I developed a “Communications Bingo,” card which you can take with you to your next meeting. When you hear a cliché or overused saying, mark it on your card. Download your free card at wayneolson.com. To be a better communicator, be a better listener and pay attention to what you say. If you have your own tips, let me know. For now, listen more and when we do speak, make every word count.