#1 Be 100% “present”
Focusing on the person speaking and the words being spoken seems to be a lost art today. When someone is telling you something that you are eager to comment on or respond to, do you interrupt as soon as the person speaking takes a breath? Most people do. Usually it’s almost an unconscious response. If you are on the phone, are you texting, reading email, doing other things? Do you go to meetings and check your email, surf the net, tweet, Facebook, etc? You get the picture. For many people, training yourself to listen attentively, repeat what you hear, ask questions, and show a genuine interest in what the person speaking is saying can create tremendous communication results.
#2 Think of the Other Person
Think about what will create value for the listener. What is the listener’s point of view? Remember, people do things for their own reasons. People operate consciously or subconsciously from WIIFM. (what’s in it for me?) When a speaker rambles on and on about their topic of choice, the listener tends to become bored. One typical example is when a neighbor or relative comes home from a trip and has taken many photos. You are invited over to hear allllllll about the trip. For some folks, the shortened version of the trip recap is great. Put your ego aside and focus on the other person.
#3 Silence, Pause
There is the old saying, God gave man two ears and one mouth, and in conversation, you should use them in those proportions. Excellent communicators are great listeners and feel comfortable with silence and pauses. The worst communicators are continuous talkers. People often need time to absorb and process a message.
#4 Short Sentences
Don’t ramble on and on. Thoughts expressed in shorter “sound bytes” are easier to understand. It makes processing that information far more effective.
#5 Check In
An effective technique is to ask the listener, “Do you follow what I mean?” “Does that make sense?” “Are you with me?” Feedback once in a while is powerful and offers an opportunity for further clarification if the message is not clear to the listener (even though the message could be perfectly clear to the speaker).
#6 Great Preparation
High school and college students who participate on debate teams are judged on how effectively they can get their ideas across and win points. They tend to prepare exhaustively. Lawyers are trained in law school to do tremendous preparation and to think through every possible scenario the opposing side might bring up. Great preparation often leads to successful communication.
#7 Acknowledge the Other Person’s Ideas
Disagreements will happen in all forms of communication, but it’s how the disagreements are conveyed which ultimately determines the final outcome. By choosing your words carefully and acknowledging the other person’s feelings, thoughts, and ideas, you avoid a possible break in rapport and prevent a mental shut down. Constructive disagreements allow for the other person to discover their possible flaws and give them the ability to potentially change their mind. Being supportive of others is important and you can enjoy great rewards by operating from a place of general support.
#8 Confirm Receipt of Messages
Respond to ALL emails, and when appropriate, respond to Facebook messages, tweets, etc. Even an “OK” means you saw that message. Don’t assume that just because you send an email, the other person opened and read it. So many misunderstandings exist when one person thinks they wrote something and you never received it, or vice versa. Have you ever had hurt feelings by lack of response?
In conclusion …
When you communicate from a place of genuine interest in the other person, you speak from truth and authenticity. You focus on building trust on the one hand and seek to understand on the other hand, and you will become known and respected as an effective communicator.
Written by Anita Paul Johnston