Four Ways to Improve Your Communication

Most people in the world have at least one characteristic in common.  They do not communicate well.  Good communication skills do not appear to be very common.  Even smart people, for the most part, do not communicate well.

Why Smart People Are Bad Communicators?

An article at answers this question.  Why are even smart people bad communicators?  The article cites communication expert Celeste Headlee, who gives four key reasons for poor communication.  They are:

  1. People over-rely on digital communication
  2. They don’t listen
  3. They ask the wrong questions
  4. And, they don’t tell stories

Avoiding Communication Mistakes

I agree.  These are four key mistakes that prevent people from communicating effectively.  They hinder people’s ability to actually use communication to achieve goals and objectives in both their professional and personal lives.  Let’s take a closer look at correcting these four errors from an Intelligent Communication perspective.  Let’s turn these into four steps to make us better communicators.

Stop Relying on Digital Communication

Let’s face it.  We all do it.  Instead of picking up the phone or making a face-to-face visit, we send an email or perhaps even a text.  It’s easy.  Further, it’s safe.
But is it really safe?  There is a greater possibility for misunderstanding in digital communication.  Additionally, there are aspects of communication that are unavailable during such interactions.  There are no non-verbal (body language) indicators to read.  There are also no para-verbal (tone, pitch, volume, etc.) that can be detected.
If we truly want to understand others, we need to take advantage non-verbal and para-verbal communications.  This helps us achieve a high level of accurate understanding.  And, it enables us to respond effectively.

Stop Talking and Listen

Think and Feel Steps

Among all communication-related skills, listening is the one skill that is particularly lacking in most people.  And it is not that most people do not listen well.  It is that they don’t really listen at all.  Most people are far more concerned about responding, than they are about listening and understanding.
Listening is one of my favorite topics.  I frequently read about it, write about it, and teach about it.  I think this is as much to remind me to listen, as it is to express an opinion on its importance.
Stop listening to respond.  Listen to understand.  Slow down.  There will be sufficient time to plan a response.  The first task is to listen and process what others are communicating, so that you have an accurate understanding of them and their message.  In Intelligent Communication, we call this listening and understanding process, Think & Feel.  Following a repeatable process reminds us to stop talking and listen.  If you would like to learn how to use the Think & Feel process, you can get a free 10-lesson email course here.   (Note: This course is currently being updated.  Visit my online training and assessments page at CourseCraft.)

Stop Asking Complicated Questions

Asking questions is an interesting skill.  What I find most interesting about this skill is that most of us actually get worse at it as we grow.  Most people were actually better at asking questions when they were a child.  Why (which is a good question)?  Because, as we mature, we tend to abandon simple questions and begin asking complicated questions.
There is an interesting paradox in asking questions.  Short and simple questions get longer more complete responses.  Long complicated questions get short narrowly focused responses.
How do we recover our child-like questioning skills (another good question)?  We ask questions beginning with one of the basic interrogatives.  These are:  who; what; when; where; why; and how.

Tell Stories

The previous three tips are fairly easy steps (though often difficult to implement).  This last idea will take a little effort.  But, your efforts will be rewarded.  Communicating with stories can make you more persuasive.  This is important when we are communicating purposefully with a goal in mind.
You do not need to tell elaborate stories.  You just have to give others a reason to listen to you.  The good news is that this is a natural byproduct of listening.  When you listen to understand others, you find out a great deal about them.  You find out what is important to them.  You discover how they like to communicate.  These are the ingredients you need to respond to them with what they want to hear.  That makes your response effective and persuasive.  Like a story.

Try It Out

So, try out these four steps for yourself.  See if they make you a better communicator.  Let us know how it works out by leaving a comment.  As always, if you have a question, you can leave it in the comments section as well.  I’ll get back to you with an answer soon.
Be swift to hear and slow to speak,
Photo by Unsplash (Pixabay)

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