Challenge yourself to communicate more effectively says Michele Thwaits
To be an effective communicator you need to look at how you communicate with others and what the impact your message has. Regularly assess what you say, how you say it, to whom you say it, when you say it, and most importantly, how your words are being heard.
“I am responsible for what I say. I am not responsible for what you understand”.
This quote says it all. Know what you say, how you say it and take responsibility for it; however, you are not responsible for how people understand you. You can be though. You can make sure you communicate more effectively and challenge yourself to communicate in such a way that you are clearly understood.
Communicate with significance
Know how significant, powerful and important it is for your message to be clear and concise and the effect it can have on how it is understood.
Communicate with substance
Your message must have substance – it must be meaningful and important to say. Many leaders today are talking more and more yet have less and less to say. Know what you want to say before you start talking. Plan your communication carefully.
Communicate with sincerity
Your message should be honest and authentic – sincere. The more sincere your message is the more impact and the more believable it will be to others. Make sure you wholeheartedly believe and embrace whatever you are going to say. People can tell a fake a mile off.
Believe in yourself and your message. Have ten times more enthusiasm than other people. You influence people through what you say and how you say it so let your passion and energy (or lack thereof) make an impression (or not) on others.
Rule of thumb, tell people what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them. You need to ensure they leave your company knowing exactly what you wanted them to remember.
Say it again and again
Be consistent in your message every time you talk to people. People need to be clear about what you stand for, what you believe in and what your vision is. Repeat it. Retell it. Restate it. Repeat it.
Communicate with your stance
Be aware of your stance. 55% of face-to-face communication is effectively portrayed through your body language, 38% from the tone of your voice and only 7% actually comes from the words you use. Your non-verbal cues speaker louder than words. Manage your body language, facial expressions and make sure they match with your message. There is a quote which says, “People may not tell you how they feel about you, but they always show you. Pay attention”.
In order to be convincing, you must know more about your vision, your industry, your plan, your subject matter than anyone else. Make sure you have the relevant facts and information to support your message and develop creative ways to share information.
Communicate with style
There are so many ways and methods of speaking. Find your unique style. Use your personality, your background, your vocabulary and bring that into your way of speaking that uniquely suits you. Practice articulating your vision. Be careful not to put on pretence and try to be something you are not – people will see right through you.
Communicate with simplicity
Use short, small words that everyone can understand and remember. A simple message that is clear and articulate is more effective than trying to impress others with language that sounds pompous and bombastic. People are not going to be impressed by that – all you will accomplish is a confused audience trying to figure out what you were saying or what the words meant.
Communicate through stories
Use original stories and personal examples which are important to you and relevant to your vision. Stories can definitely have more impact than just facts and figures, ideas or opinions. Don’t tell a story that goes on and on and on …. you will bore people to tears and they will lose interest.
Communicate with a smile
A smile is an effective way to engage with others when appropriate. It brings transparency to your message and shows warmth and kindness which can so easily put the harshest critic in a more receptive mode. Smiling is contagious.
Most people don’t like silence. They feel the need to fill that gap because they are so focused on what they want to say next. When you are only thinking about what you are going to say next, you are not listening. And if you are not listening, how could you possibly add anything of value to the conversation?
By listening you are processing what is being said and you organise your thoughts before responding and this then leads to a productive conversation.
Seek to understand others and establish a connection
To effectively communicate with someone, you really have to try and understand them and where they are coming from. People have distinct cultures, beliefs and experiences and this can affect their point of view. This also makes it hard to really understand someone.
Many people in management positions don’t take the time to know their people because they are either too busy or they just don’t care. As a good communicator, take the time to ask questions, get clarification and listen. Knowing what the differences are makes it easier to connect with someone and engage in good conversation.
Great communicators are the genuine deal. That is why people are drawn to them. People don’t have to love you to follow you, but they do need to believe you and what you say.
Being authentic is being honest. Without honesty, there is no trust and without trust people won’t follow you. If you can’t share certain information, just say so. People may not like it, but they will appreciate your honesty.
Great leaders/communicators always take responsibility for their actions and words. And they do it without any drama or false humility. They face up to it and apologise; displaying confidence, not arrogance. They check their egos at the door knowing they are one person and not a super hero. When you show others that you can’t do everything by yourself and that you are open to ideas, you show respect.
Use an easy, conversational, personal tone. Keep your message simple. Some industries have their own jargon which is fine when speaking to people in your industry, but when speaking to people who may not be as savvy as you are, it is best to keep your tone conversational and your words simple and clear; this makes you more likeable. Great communicators use this strategy.
Watch for misunderstandings
Wherever there is communication, there’s always a chance of misunderstanding. Great communicators know this and look for differences in how a person typically reacts or misalignments in what they are saying compared to their tone and body language.
Leaders will pick up on these cues and fix misunderstandings.
These are just some simple things to remember when communicating – there is no hard and fast rule to being a great communicator. You can, in your own way, formulate, articulate and communicate your vision with success, effectiveness and confidence. Words without action have no impact. Your whole being comes into play, so use all of you; don’t hold back if you want to effectively influence and persuade with your communication.
Renee Cocchi wrote about seven great leaders, which included Ronald Regan, Michelle Obama, Dr Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill. She shared what these great leaders all have in common – they are all great communicators.
Do you think great leaders are born great communicators? Can we all learn to be one of the greats? The answer is Yes. Some people are born with that charisma and strength, but great communication skills can be learned and developed. The more you do it, the more effort you put into it, the more you will improve.