No matter your age, background, or experience, Communicate Effectively is a skill you can learn. Some of the greatest leaders of all time are also fantastic communicators and orators. In fact, communications is one of the most popular college degrees today; people recognize the value of a truly efficient communicator. With a little self-confidence and knowledge of the basics, you’ll be able to get your point across quickly and easily.
Creating the Right Environment
Choose the right time. As the saying states, there is a time and a place for everything, and communicating is no different.
- Avoid starting discussions about heavy topics late in the evening. Few people will be thrilled to be faced with sorting major issues like finances or long range scheduling when they are the most tired. Instead, deliver messages and conduct discussions about heavy topics in the mornings or afternoons when people are alert, available, and more likely to be able to respond with clarity.
Facilitate an open, intimate conversation. Choose the right place, one that provides freedom for the communication to open, flower, and come to maturity. If you need to tell someone something that isn’t going to sit well (such as news of a death or a breakup), don’t do it in public, around colleagues, or near other people. Be respectful and mindful of the person by communicating to them in a private place. This will also provide space to open the dialog into a wider and a more involved mutual understanding and ensure that the two-way process is functioning properly.
- If you are presenting to a group of people, be sure to check the acoustics beforehand and practice projecting your voice clearly. Use a microphone if needed to ensure that your audience can hear you.
Remove distractions. Turn off all electronics that could interrupt the conversation. If the phone rings, laugh it off the first time, then turn it off immediately and continue talking. Do not allow external distractions to act as crutches that sidetrack your concentration. They will distract both you and your listener, and will effectively kill the communication.
Organizing your communications
Organize and clarify ideas in your mind. This should be done before you attempt to communicate any ideas. If you are feeling passionate about a topic, your ideas may become garbled if you haven’t already targeted some key points to stick to when communicating. Key points will act as anchors, bringing focus and clarity to your communication, and Communicate Effectively.
- A good rule of thumb is to choose three main points and keep your communication focused on those. That way, if the topic wanders off course, you will be able to return to one or more of these three key points without feeling flustered. Writing the points down, if appropriate, can also help.
Be crystal clear. Make it clear what you’re hoping to convey from the outset. For example, your purpose could be to inform others, obtain information, or initiate action. If people know in advance what you expect from the communication, things will go more smoothly.
Stay on topic. Once you start to convey your three main points, make sure everything you’re saying adds to the message you intend to communicate and strengthens it. If you have already thought through the issues and distilled the them to the essentials, it is likely that helpful pertinent phrases will stick in your mind. Do not be afraid to use these to underline your points. Even confident, well-known speakers reuse their key lines again and again for emphasis and reinforcement. Remember to keep the overall message clear and direct.
Thank your listener(s). Thank the person or group for the time taken to listen and respond. No matter what the outcome of your communication, even if the response to your talk or discussion has been other than you had hoped, end it politely by properly respecting everyone’s input and time.
Communicating with Speech
Set the listener at ease. You want to do this before launching into your conversation or presentation. It can help sometimes to begin with a favorite anecdote. This helps the listener identify with you as someone who acts like them and has the same everyday concerns, and Communicate Effectively.
Be articulate. It is important to deliver your message clearly and unambiguously so that the message comes across in a way that every listener can understand. Your words are remembered because people instantly understand what it is that you are saying. This requires delivering your words distinctly and using simpler words rather than more complex ones
- The goal of articulate communication is to be clear, concise and relevant.
Enunciate clearly. Speak at a volume level that is guaranteed to be heard and that doesn’t come across as too quiet or disengaged. Take special care to properly enunciate key points so that you avoid any kind of misunderstanding. If mumbling is a defensive habit that you have fallen into due to fear of communicating, practice your message at home in front of the mirror. It is sometimes best to discuss what you want to communicate with those you feel comfortable with. This helps solidify the message in your own mind. Be aware that any practice or refinement of your wording will help you to build confidence.
Be attentive when listening and ensure that your facial expressions reflect your interest. Listen actively. Remember that communication is a two-way street and that while you are talking, you are not learning. By actively listening, you will be able to gauge how much of your message is getting through to your listener(s) and whether or not it is being received correctly or needs to be tweaked. If your audience appears to be confused, it is often helpful to ask the listener(s) to reflect back some of what you have said, but in their own words. This can help you to identify and correct mistaken views of what you have intended to communicate.
- Validate people’s feelings. This will encourage them to open up, and help them feel better if they’re upset.
Be vocally interesting. A monotone is not pleasing to the ear, so good communicators use vocal color to enhance communication. Norma Michael recommends that you:
- Raise the pitch and volume of your voice when you transition from one topic or point to another.
- Increase your volume and slow the delivery whenever you raise a special point or are summing up.
- Speak briskly, but pause to emphasize keywords when requesting action, and Communicate Effectively.