“ They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buechner
There are certain key lessons about effective communication which have become crystal clear in my mind. I see them manifest in every interaction between two human beings. Here are the top 10 of these lessons:
- Lesson #1: Communication is Like a Muscle.
- Lesson #2: You’re Overrating Your Communication Skills.
- Lesson #3: Good Communication Can Compensate Bad Communication.
- Lesson #4: Talk to the Point.
- Lesson #5. Be Clear.
- Lesson #6: Ask!
- Lesson #7: Be Yourself.
- Lesson #8: Listen Instead of Assuming.
- Lesson #9: Don’t Argue for the Sake of Arguing.
- Lesson #10. Smile!
Lesson #1. Communication is Like a Muscle. The more you use it, the more it develops. This doesn’t mean that just by communicating you automatically improve your communication skills every time; applying certain principles and seeking to improve is also important. But the basics are in actually practicing, in interacting with people as much as you can.
Lesson #2: You’re Overrating Your Communication Skills. There are two things which happen a lot in relation with communication: one is that almost everybody agrees that most people need to improve their communication skills, the other is that almost nobody believes they have this problem. It’s very possible that your communication skills need work, and it’s best to take this into account.
Lesson #3: Good Communication Can Compensate Bad Communication. If you deal with people with bad communication skills, the situation is not hopeless. To a great extent, you can still get the kind of results you want, if you have good enough communication skills to balance things out. Just focus on your side of things.
Lesson #4: Talk to the Point. Probably the most common mistake in communication is losing the attention of the people you’re talking to, because you’ve stopped saying something relevant for them. Always keep your target in mind and adapt the content of your communication so it’s relevant for whoever you are talking with.
Lesson #5. Be Clear. General, fuzzy words don’t have much practical use in communication. They’re mostly a way of talking without saying much. Focus on using very specific and precise words when you talk, in order to present your thoughts in as a precise manner as you can. This improves your chance to be understood and to be convincing when you interact with others.
Lesson #6. Ask! I can’t even begin to describe how much most people sabotage themselves in communication by not asking clearly for the things they want. We tend to avoid expressing our own needs or wants, or we fail to express them clearly. Instead, we hope that someone will simply address our needs and wants the way we want. This is a terrible strategy. If you want something, ask for it clearly. That’s what confident and effective people do.
Lesson #7: Be Yourself. Communication can be used as a way to create a false impression about yourself. And this has some benefits but overall, it is just another bad strategy in relating with others. Instead, use communication as a way to express your true self, without regrets and without excuses. Authentic communication is the way to build great partnerships and overall, and to get the best results.
Lesson #8: Listen Instead of Assuming. We will often stop listening to what a person has to say when her words seem familiar and we think we know what else she has to say. But we often jump to the wrong conclusions, and we end up misunderstanding others. Each person has unique experiences, and they will express them in unique ways. Listen to them instead of assuming before you respond.
Lesson #9: Don’t Argue for the Sake of Arguing. This is something I see all the time: a person expresses an opinion and another person who has a different opinion instantly contradicts them. There is no practical benefit in converting this person to their side, and it’s improbable that they will, but they stubbornly try nonetheless. There are times to argue, when there is practical value in doing this. But these are the exceptions rather than the rules.
Lesson #10. Smile! It’s such a simple act, which can communicate so many positive things, and can brighten up somebody’s day. Smiling is generally the act of the confident and the happy. It creates subtle but powerful effects and it’s something I recommend that you practice consciously each day.
And of course, whatever lessons you put into practice in your communication, remember to enjoy the process. It can be as meaningful as the destination of having cutting edge communication skills.