We cannot escape all the noise in our world today. It’s distracting at least, annoying, most certainly. And, globally, there has never been so many different ways to get and stay connected. Fact, that it is. Here’s the question: are your communications skills up for the challenge to communicate effectively on so many different platforms?
Outlined below are pragmatic steps to check your communication skills and ensure you are heard and understood. As a professional communicator, refining your communication skills is a wise investment.
Master Communication Skills
NO. 1: Consider your words before you speak.
Studies show that humans can hear up to 300 words per minute with full comprehension. Interestingly, most individuals can read at a rate of around 2.5 words per second or around 150 words per minute.
As a practical matter, it is normal that some listeners grow bored or disinterested the slower a presenter speaks. There can be an attention gap issue in play. Good information to know, as a presenter and a listener.
Speaking at a pace of between 165-200 words per minute (3.3 per second) is a good speed for others to understand and process what you say, and reflect on it, too.
Given the dynamics between speaking and listening, too tempting is it to be swept up in the fast-paced process (depending upon in what part of the country you live) and instead of actively listening and absorbing your audience’s message, you lob back and forth in the interaction, sometimes faster than your mind can compute.
To become a more effective communicator, you must practice a disciplined approach in your oral communications. Before you respond too quickly, put on the brakes to consider the impact of your words, verifying whether it is in your or their best interest to respond so quickly as to either short circuit the communications process and/or suffer the consequences of an ill-timed response.
Adapt a six-second rule. Before you respond, take six seconds to consider the implications of your words. Remember, what you give is what you get…You have a choice, so make the right one.
NO. 2: Consider your audience.
Tailor your message to your audience. The same message is not appropriate for every audience.
The message you convey to a referral source about your practice will be different from how you speak to a client or client contact. Because we create impressions, and yes, visual images in the minds of our listeners, we must be purposeful of how we relate to our audience with our words. Practice (and often, professional coaching) is ideal for refinement.
NO. 3: Listen first and second, and then speak.
We have all heard that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. It is impossible to learn when we are speaking. It is imperative that as professional services providers that we actively listen to clients, colleagues, referral sources, networking partners, and so on, to learn how we may support and help them. As impossible as it is to list all the ways we are qualified to “help” others, it would be misguided to do so before understanding what the needs are. Listen first to learn what opportunities may present themselves.
The next time you are engaged in a business discussion, take notice of the impact of your words. What is their non-verbal communication messages? “You have some very good points; I like your ideas?” or “Wow, why am I listening to this person?” Be mindful of how your message is perceived, tweak your message and the desired impact will follow.
NO. 4: Can you hear me now? Mind the communications gap.
Too many miscommunications occur when we believe that we conveyed a message but found out later that the listener did not perceive it as we remembered it. The origin of the miscommunication is less important than the steps to communicate clearly in the first place. First, refer to tip #1 above: think before you speak to ensure that you are in control of your message. Second, to become a more effective speaker, you want to confirm with your audience that the message received is the message you intended to send.
Ask for feedback “are you with me?” “Does this make sense?” Adapt these questions to your voice and you will likely make a greater impact.
NO. 5: Confirm your intentions.
Individuals who share a negative message often find a tuned out audience. To become a more effective communicator, check your intentions and that you are not conveying negativity in your conversations, presentations, with clients and in relationship-building situations.
NO. 6: Make every word count.
Tighten up your message and do not blabber on. Regard words as the gifts that they are. There is no point to belabor your message just to feed your ego or to fill up space. We simply have too many words in our day to waste them.
Becoming an effective communicator requires a concentrated effort and willingness to adapt to new ways of thinking. There are few things more impactful than to present your well-crafted message and to be understood through the spoken word, across all platforms. Kimberly Rice