10 Ways To Improve Your Communication by Lydia Moussa
Imagine you are talking to someone and all they are doing is staring in another direction, you feel they are disinterested, want to leave the conversation and are rude.
1. Make Eye Contact
This is so important in communication. You must stare into the eyes of the person you are talking to or listening to make them feel like you are interested, that what they are saying is important and deserves the attention.
Okay, so now think of a situation, where you are talking to someone and they have their arms crossed and are tapping their legs. How does that make you feel? Maybe they are in a hurry and have somewhere more important to go to and hence are impatient with you. Still makes you very uncomfortable and less important.
2. Body Language
Experts in the field of communication often quote 55/38/7 “rule” that states “people derive only 7% of the meaning of communication from words they use, 38% is based on tone of voice and a whopping 55% from the speaker’s body language”
Crossing your arms while you talk to someone builds up a defence barrier between you and the speaker (unless you’re just cold!), it may give them the impression you do not agree with them or are slightly defensive.
Hand gestures are a great way to emphasise your point – Middle Easterners are great at that!
Imagine you are talking to someone about a certain topic and at any opportunity they jump in and go off on a tangent for ages about themselves, their experience, their stories. They try to top your story and take over the conversation. Sometimes it’s not even relevant to the point you were trying to make, all they want to do is hear themselves talk.
3. Listen First To Understand
No one wants a conversation where only one party is talking – that’s a speech – not a conversation! So we have to learn to listen first and wait for the person to finish their point and then comment on the same point, you may use personal experience or a general opinion or just agree with their ideas. Response to their words makes people feel like you are truly listening and again interested in what they have to say.
Okay, say you are going to talk to a number of people, or your boss at work or at party or at a gathering or at a funeral (God forbid), but you get the point.
You must follow the three steps below;
4. What Do I Want To Say?
5. Who Am I Talking To?
6. How Should I Explain It?
This example is from a book I recently read called ‘Drop the pink Elephant’ by Bill McFarlan
Say you want to ask your boss for next Friday off because you have a wedding to attend, although it’s end of financial year and it’s really busy.
Some might ask this way, “I know it’s busy but I’ve been invited to a wedding next Friday and I’m sure you’ll not even notice I’m off”
Chances are he’s going to say no!
Now try this;
What do I want to say? I want to go to a wedding next Friday.
Who am I talking to? My hard-pressed sometimes unreasonable, doesn’t care about anything but work boss!
How should I explain it? By offering a solution and asking for his help
So how about saying it this way…
“I’ve been invited to a wedding next Friday. I know it coincides with our busiest time. So I wondered how you would feel- if I got through my work load by Thursday night- about me taking the Friday as a day’s holiday. I’d love to be at the wedding and I’d really appreciate if you could help me with this.”
I have a feeling this is more likely to work, don’t you?
The main thing is to know your audience- speaking to your boss is different to speaking to your best friend, to your mum, to your 5 year old child or even speaking to someone on the phone.
You have to adjust the way you speak and think before you speak accordingly to who is listening.
Now, how would you respond if you are conducting an interview and the candidate says the following; “Yes, I am probably, reasonably good for this job, I’m fairly punctual, I’m relatively dependable and quite reliable.” Would you hire this person? I know I wouldn’t.
7. Flush Out Watering Words
“It is no use saying “we’re doing our best.” You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.” Winston Churchill
What are watering words? These are words we use for false modesty. These are ways we put our selves down so people don’t expect too much, we under-promise so we can over-deliver. It is good to set expectations, but under-promising may not give you the credibility you deserve. Such watering words include; hopefully, probably, possibly, relatively, fairly, occasionally etc.
So going back to our candidate in the interview, wouldn’t you have more confidence in a person if they said, “Yes, I am an ideal candidate for this position, I am always punctual, I am very dependable and reliable.” Now that’s more like it- You’re hired!
Some might prefer to say “Yes, I will probably finish this article by tomorrow” instead of “Yes, I will finish this article by tomorrow.” So they can give some leeway, but if you know you can finish it then why not say exactly that. If something does come up, keep your boss posted and tell him you’ll need more time.
This gives people more confidence in your words, your promises, your deadlines and will trust you more.
8. Sorry Is Sometimes The Hardest Word!
I always told myself, I could never marry a man that can’t say sorry, and thank God I didn’t!
People seem to think that saying sorry is a sign of weakness, that they will be held reliable for the consequences should they say sorry.
How long did it take for the Australian Government to say sorry to the Aboriginals in Australia? All they could think about were the reimbursements they would have to cough up when they do say sorry!
Saying sorry and owning up to a mistake, is less likely to cause anger and stir your clients, your friends, family or colleagues.
I had a really good experience with Vodafone the other day.Their computer systems were down, so the first thing the girl said after saying hello and asking how I am? was, “I do apologise but our systems are down at the moment and it is unlikely that I will be able to address your request. If you can please call us back tomorrow by which time we hope our system is back on and we can assist you. Thank you for your patience and understanding, have a great day.”
As Bill McFarlan says in his book; when there is a situation you require to apologise for you have to apologise using the 3 R’s:
Regret: I do apologise
Reason: Our systems are down
Remedy: Please call back tomorrow and when we can assist you
Such a simple concept, yet super effective. There’s no point apologising without giving a reason or providing a solution- you can’t resolve a situation by just a “sorry” and a shrug of the shoulders, no one can do anything with your sorry! To regain people’s trust, you must provide a reason and a remedy.
We always run late for meetings, but most people just say “Sorry I’m late!” What we should be saying is, “Sorry I’m late, I got stuck in traffic, let’s skip the ice breakers and get straight into it so we can finish on time.” See simple, yet effective!
9. Being Confident Is Not Opposite Of Being Humble
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
We must talk positively about ourselves and about others. Our confidence comes from within, so if you speak confidently about yourself, you will feel confident.
Some say but then you seem arrogant and you are not humble.
The concept of Christian humility is not self deprecation, if God made us in His image, then shouldn’t we be proud of that image? Shouldn’t we take pride in the talents that He so graciously provided us. “…Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us , let us use them…” Romans 12:6
So you can be positive about yourself yet maintain Christian or moral humility. We have a gift from God, we should be proud of it, but always know that it is God that gave it to us and Him we should thank.
Now imagine working for someone who never appreciates your hard work, who never says thank you or well done, only criticises you and puts you down. Wouldn’t you be miserable and hate going to work?
10. Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
It used to make my work day so worth the long hours when my boss used to come up to me and say, “Hey Lydia, really good work today, I see the staff are really improving.” Although rare to be said, but when he did, it was such a relief and motivator, I only wish he said it more often.
This is not just at work, a husband should always thank his wife for the little things, like making dinner or cleaning the house. To make her feel like he does notice and he is appreciative of her efforts and it is not just an expectation of her role as a wife, because her role as a wife is not a role as a cleaner and cook- these are added benefits to the husband done through love.
These tips will lead you to be a great communicator and improve your communication …don’t say I’ll try …say I’ll DO IT and you WILL notice the difference.
Author: Lydia Moussa is an Australian living in the UK. Her blog at GROWTH SPURT is aimed at being a one stop shop for personal growth – mentally through increased knowledge, emotionally through increased awareness, physically through increased health improvements and spiritually through increased hope and faith. Lydia strongly believes that we all need to grow and we can’t do so by standing still, but by striving to be better.