There are many areas to look at in communication: a message is communicated through visual, vocal and verbal means. From that, comes the importance of body language, how we present ourselves, and so on. The visual and vocal elements are indeed very important to effective communication, but we will not touch on that here.
Rather, let’s look at why many people experience a challenge in communicating effectively from the verbal aspect:
When I was a magazine editor, I was invited to many red-carpet events and cocktails where I had to rub shoulders with the rich and famous. Initially I dreaded those events, because I was not comfortable at making small talk with these people.
Then a great truth dawned on me – to be a good conversationalist, we simply had to be a great listener. We had to be genuinely interested in what the other person had to say, ask the right questions (because we genuinely wanted to know more) and presto, people will laud us as great communicators!
It’s often our own self-consciousness that makes us tongue-tied and awkward. We are so pre-occupied with what intelligent idea to share next, that we can barely concentrate on listening to and understanding the other party.
The other block to good communication is non-empathy. We are sometimes so intent on putting our ideas across that we forget to be sensitive or empathic to the other person. Is the person in a rush, or does he or she have other matters on his or her mind?
A good example is when we want to sell an idea to our boss: is he or she rushing for another meeting? Or perhaps he or she has just got some flak from his or her boss or a customer and is simply in a lousy mood.
My personality type tends towards being results-oriented, so this was an area that I was weak in. Now I’ve learnt to be more sensitive and to always ask: Is it a good time to talk? Or: Do you have half an hour to discuss… ?
3. Lack of clarity
This comes from a lack of clarity in our thoughts as well as our verbal communication. It starts from our thoughts: are we quite clear in our minds what is the message we wish to convey? From there, we move on to effective choice of words. Some people may have a language problem: they may be thinking in their mother language, say Mandarin or Punjabi, and trying to express their ideas in a language they are not comfortable with, say English.
Learn to organize your thoughts. Before making an important presentation, list down the points you want to make in a logical sense. If language is a challenge, then I suggest you write your ideas down in proper sentences and ask a friend to go through for you. I’m not saying you should read from your paper or memorise the “speech” but just writing it down and reading it a few times will help you a great deal in putting your message across.
Many people think as long as they speak fluently, they are good communicators. Not so, as those of you who have had to listen to someone go on and on about themselves, will testify. They may be such eloquent speakers, and even entertaining at times, but there’s only so much we can take in a one-way communication. I’m sure some of you have been in a situation where you just wish you were somewhere else after 20 minutes!
The highest level of communication which I personally would strive for as a communicator is what is known as persuasive communication. This takes place when the person we are communicating with, 1) understands what we want to say, 2) feels what we are feeling and is then 3) motivated to take action on what we have said. Effective communication may stop short at (2); the listener may not necessarily want to do something about what he or she has just heard.
One skill that can help you move from effective to persuasive communication is that of asking questions. This is a powerful skill that once you have mastered it, will indeed help you see immediate results in your daily communication – be it sales, presentation of ideas, talking to your friends or simply getting your child to do what you want! So the best thing you can do for yourself now is to pop into a bookstore and grab a book on this!
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