Ever struggle to make your point? Are you missing signals from others? The ability to communicate is a skill we often take for granted. Most of us consider ourselves to be pretty good communicators, especially when we are communicating with people we know.
As we get to know someone we develop an understanding which leads to a tendency to overestimate our communication skills. This tendency is defined by psychologists as the closeness-communication bias. Researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business paired subjects with people they knew well and then again with people they’d never met… [the study] found people who knew each other well understood each other no better than people who’d just met.
There are many communication mistakes we make without even realizing we are doing so. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder of TalentSmart®, shares insights for being a great communicator with both those closest to you and strangers alike:
Listen so people will talk: Communication is so much more than the words we speak. Listening plays an equally important role with talking. Great communicators put just as much effort into listening as they do speaking. Listening also includes observing and analyzing nonverbal cues, including body language and tone.
Practice active listening: Active listening is encompassed by various aspects including paying more attention to the other person than yourself, asking questions, not interrupting, avoiding finishing other’s sentences, and reframing what the person has said back to them to be sure you understand. Good communicators listen to and respond to what is being said, instead of just waiting for their turn to speak. This allows the other person to feel heard and in turn leads to better communication between both parties.
Connect emotionally: Best said by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said and did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Emotional connection… is critical to effective communication. When speaking to groups, audiences are most able to connect with communicators they feel are transparent and human. Audiences form connections with those who are like them, and as a transparent, authentic presenter, one can demonstrate to audiences the art of being human, just like them.
Read body language: Body language accounts for 55% of communication, according to research by Albert Mehrabian. Effective communication requires the ability to understand body language. Do they maintain eye contact? Do they back away, or move toward you? Do their facial expressions indicate curiosity or boredom? When we are conscious and knowledgeable about body language, the ability to uncover feelings and thoughts not directly expressed will increase.
Prepare your intent: Preparation can have a significant impact on the direction of the communication, and accordingly the relationship might take. An understanding of what the focus of the conversation needs to be helps the communicator stay on track and accomplish their goals.
Speak to groups as individuals: When speaking to a group of people, it can be difficult to capture each person’s attention. Great communicators make every single person in the room feel as though they are being addressed individually. Treat the communication as if it were directed to a single person, and the energy and consideration of a one-on-one conversation will result.
Talk so people will listen: Read your audience and tailor the message to match your evaluation of the audience. When you recognize how your audience wants to be addressed and you use that to engage with them, the communication becomes much more meaningful. This may lead to sidetracking from your original talking points, but if the audience is engaged the communication can be much more fruitful.
Skip the jargon: When attempting to connect with a wide range of people, common language that all can understand is your best bet. Using complicated language only some can understand makes others feel subordinate and causes them to lose interest. In order to be more persuasive and relatable, good communicators do not use jargon when communicating effectively.
Communication is contextual and dynamic. Awareness of skills employed by great communicators can bring out the masters in all of us.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
-George Bernard Shaw