How to communicate like a professional
Here are six techniques you can use to help you say things simply but persuasively and even forcefully:
(1) Clarify your thinking. The most common source of confusing messages is confusing thinking. We have an idea that we haven’t thought of. Or we have so many things we want to say that we can’t say it. But we have such a strong opinion that we cannot keep it. As a result, we are ill-prepared when we speak and confuse everyone. The first rule of frankness, then, is to think before you say something. Organize your thoughts.
(2) Say what you mean. Say exactly what you mean.
(3) Get to the point. Effective communicators don’t mince words. If you want someone to buy something, ask for the order. If you want someone to do something, say exactly what you want them to do.
(4) Be concise. Don’t waste words. The confusion grows in direct proportion to the number of words used. Speak clearly and briefly, using the shortest and most familiar words.
(5) Be real. Each of us has a personality—a combination of traits, thought patterns, and gestures—that can help us communicate clearly. For maximum clarity, be natural and let your true self come out. You will be more convincing and much more comfortable.
(6) Talk in pictures. The cliché that “a picture is worth a thousand words” isn’t exactly true (try explaining the Internal Revenue code using nothing more than pictures). But words that help people visualize concepts can go a long way in getting a message across. Once Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative became known as Star Wars, his opponents had a powerful weapon against it. The name gave it the image of a distant futuristic dream beyond the reach of today’s technology. Reagan could never present a more powerful positive image.
Your one-on-one communication will acquire true power if you learn to send simple, clear and assertive messages; if you learn to monitor the listener to determine that your message was received correctly; and if you learn to get the desired response by approaching people with due attention to their behavioral styles.
Your finesse as a communicator will grow as you learn to identify and overcome obstacles to communication. Practice the six techniques I just mentioned, and you’ll find your effectiveness as a message sender steadily increasing.
But sending messages is only half of the communication process. To be a truly accomplished communicator, you must also cultivate the art of listening.
If you are approaching a railroad crossing on a blind curve, you can send a message with your car horn. But that is not the most important part of your communication task. The communication that counts happens when you stop, look and listen.
We are all familiar with the warning on railroad crossing signs: Stop, Look, and Listen. It is also a useful warning for communication.
It is easy to think of communication as a process of sending messages. But sending is only half the process. Receiving is the other half. So, at the appropriate time, we have to stop sending and prepare to receive.
A sign on the wall of Lyndon Johnson’s Senate office puts it realistically: “When you talk, you’re not learning.”
Listening pays off every day in the business world. Smart salespeople have learned that you can talk your way out of a sale, but you can listen your way into one. They listen to their customers to find out what their needs are, and then they focus on meeting those needs. Skillful negotiators know that no progress can be made until they have heard and understood what the other party wants.
Listening requires reflection and care
Listening, like speaking and writing, requires thought and care. If you don’t focus on listening, you won’t learn much and you won’t remember much of what you do learn.
Some experts claim that professionals earn between 40% and 80% of their salary by listening. However, most of us retain only 25% of what we hear. If you can increase their retention and understanding, you can increase your effectiveness in the information age of the 21st century.
listen with your eyes
If you listen only with your ears, you are missing much of the message. Good listeners keep their eyes open while listening.
Look for feelings. The face is an eloquent means of communication. Learn to read their messages. While the speaker is delivering a verbal message, the face may be saying, “I’m serious,” “Just kidding,” “It pains me to say this,” or “This gives me great pleasure.”
Some non-verbal cues to watch out for:
– Rubbing an eye. When you hear “I guess you’re right” and the speaker rubs an eye, he guesses again. Frequent rubbing of one eye is a sign that the speaker is having trouble internally accepting something.
– Feet pounding. When a statement is accompanied by foot-tapping, it usually indicates a lack of confidence in what is being said.
– Rubbing fingers. When he sees the thumb and forefinger rub together, it often means the speaker is hiding something.
– Stare and blink. If you’ve made your best offer and the other person is looking at the ceiling and blinking rapidly, your offer is under consideration.
– Crooked smiles. Most genuine smiles are symmetrical. And most facial expressions are fleeting. If a smile is noticeably crooked, you’re probably looking at a fake smile.
– Eyes that avoid contact. Poor eye contact can be a sign of low self-esteem, but it can also indicate that the speaker is not telling the truth.
It would be unwise to make a decision based solely on these visible signs. But they can give you valuable advice on the kinds of questions to ask, and the kinds of answers to watch out for.
Good listeners make things easier
People who don’t know how to listen will find few who are willing to come to them with useful information.
Good listeners make it easy for those they want to listen to. They make it clear that they are interested in what the other person has to say.