Communication makes the world go round. On a smaller level, communication, or being able to communicate effectively, is what gets you through each day, in both your career and personal life. No matter what your age, background or experience, communicating effectively is something that every person can achieve. All it requires is self-confidence, good articulation and knowledge of how communication can be made more effective.
An intimate conversation might be the best for some topics
1. Choose the right moment and the right place. If you need to discuss something in private with a person, make sure that the choice of venue is private and that you do not feel uncomfortable about the possibility of being overheard. On the other hand, if you need to make your point before a group of people, ensure that the location is somewhere that your discussion will be audible to all who are present to ensure that you engage each and every person in the group.
The 3 points are even more important when you are presenting a speech to a large audience
Organize and clarify ideas in your mind before you attempt to communicate them. If you are feeling passionate about a topic, you may become garbled if you haven’t already thought of some key points to stick with. 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.
- Stay on-topic. Make sure all facts, stories, allusions, etc, add to the conversation/ debate. Again, refer to the three key points. If you have already thought through the issues and the essence of the ideas that you wish to put across to others, it is likely that some pertinent phrases will stick in your mind. Do not be afraid to use these to underline your points – even very confident and well-known speakers re-use their key lines again and again for major effect.
- Be clear about the purpose of the communication. For example, your purpose could be to inform others, to obtain information or to initiate action. You need to know this in advance.
Effective eye contact and engagement can enhance communication for both parties
4. Articulate. Articulate talk is talk that gets remembered because people instantly understand what it is that you are saying. To be most effective at articulating your message, there are some key considerations:
- Do not mumble. Sound out the words clearly and openly, with the intent to have them heard without error. If mumbling is a defensive habit that you have fallen into out of fear of communicating, practice your message at home in front of the mirror. Discuss what you want to communicate with those you feel comfortable around first to better develop the message in your mind. Both the practice and the development of your words for the messaging will build your confidence and help you to avoid wanting to mumble.
- Look into the other person’s eyes if possible but be aware that this is culturally ordained – in some cultures eye contact is considered to be unsettling or inappropriate. Be aware of this as fits your context.
- Use facial expressions consciously. Aim to reflect passion and generate empathy with the listener by using soft, gentle and aware facial expressions. Avoid negative facial expressions, such as frowns or raised eyebrows. What is, or isn’t negative is dependent on the context, including cultural context, so be guided by your situation.
- Use breathing and pauses to your advantage. Take deep breathes to steady yourself before you begin communicating. Get into the habit of solid, regular breathing during a conversation that will help you to keep a steady, calm voice and will also keep you more relaxed. Use pauses to take a breather in what you are saying. Pauses are also an effective tool to emphasize your point, as the listener has a moment to digest what has been said and then wonders what is coming next.
Does this gesture unsettle you or encourage you to listen?
- Use hand gestures carefully. Be conscious of what your hands are saying as you speak. Some hand gestures can be very effective in highlighting your points. Others can be distracting or even offensive to some listeners. Also watch the body language – wandering eyes, hands picking at fluff on your clothing and constant sniffling are all guaranteed to dampen the effectiveness of your message and will cease to engage your listeners.
If the phone rings, laugh it off the first time and then turn it off immediately and continue talking
2. Remove distractions. Turn off the cell phone, put away the iPod, tie your dog to a post. Do not allow external distractions to act as crutches that keep sidetracking your concentration. They will distract both you and your listener and they will also effectively kill the communication. Even if the communication that you are having is a difficult one, it will not help the effectiveness of your message if you are seeking comfort in such distractions.
Be attentive when listening and ensure that your facial expressions reflect your interest
3. Listen. Communication is a two-way street and requires you to listen as well. Remember, while you are talking you are not learning. In listening, you will be able to gauge how much of your message is getting through to your listeners and whether or not it is being received correctly or is being misinterpreted. It can be helpful to ask listeners to rephrase some of what you have said in their own words if they appear to be returning confused or mistaken views to you.
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 negative, it is good manners to end it politely and with respect for everyone’s input and time.
- Do not beat around the bush when you are trying to get a point across. State what you want in a clear voice.
- To maximize the effectiveness of your communication make sure the person has time to devote solely to you. If the person is otherwise occupied it might be better to save your thoughts for a better time.
- To talk without purpose is to ramble. If you want to be taken lightly, ramble.
- Do not whine or plead. Neither is guaranteed to instill respect or interest in the listener. If you are very upset, excuse yourself and come back to the discussion later when you have had a chance to think it through.
- Be careful with levity. While a little humor injected into what you are discussing can be very effective, do not take it too far and do not rely on it as a crutch to cover up the hard-to-say things. If you keep giggling and joking, your communication will not be taken seriously.