5 Steps Will Make a Master Communicator Out of You

Want to be heard? Some strategies to for making it happen

How many times have you found yourself at cross purposes with a colleague, a business partner, your sales person or your spouse for that matter? Do you feel like sometimes, despite your best intentions, you’re misunderstood and can’t get your point across in a conversation?  You’re certainly not alone. I have been in the same boat many a time. Through numerous mistakes I am finally learning that “communication is the responsibility of the communicator.” If you don’t understand me, it’s not really your fault. It is because I have obviously not expressed myself clearly.

 

Here’s a 5 step framework (that’s proved very beneficial to me) and will hopefully assist you in honing your communication skills with your business partner, colleagues, and sales team. May I suggest that you try out these steps in an environment that provides the maximum potential for learning and an excellent opportunity for a candid assessment of your progressing communication skills, i.e. at home first with your spouse or partner vs. at work where you risk getting the  “politically correct” evaluation of your abilities.  Remember the skills once learned, are totally transferable and can be applied to any situation.

 

  1. Make eye contact with the person to show that you are really listening. 

Let me share an example of how this might be applied in a situation at home.  For instance, if your wife or partner comes to you and asks the million dollar question, “Am I looking fat?” your conditioned response is a vehement “no” even as your gaze is intently fixed on the television. That is undoubtedly the perfect answer (as you’ve learnt from experience) but your body language does not match your words. Big problem! The immediate reaction you get (mixed with quite a bit of reprisal) may be something like this, “you haven’t even looked!”

 

A simple way to steer clear of a reaction like this is to look the person in the eye and say what you have to say, in this case, “No” very fervently. It gives you a lot more credibility and keeps you safe from the stinging reaction above.

 

  2. Watch out for the non-verbal signs

Words make up only 7% of your communication; 63% is body language and the remaining 20% is your tone or voice.  Allow me to explain what I mean. Let’s say you’re engrossed in the TV show (and have been for quite some time now). Your attention is disrupted by noises in the kitchen where your spouse or partner seems to be preparing dinner. You turn around and see that the dishes are being clanged and the chicken is being chopped with a little more fervor than usual. Now, before you go and ask a close ended question, watch for body language like rolling of the eyes, tense facial expression, strained posture etc. If after observing those signs, you ask the question “what’s wrong” and you get the answer “nothing,” watch for the tone of the voice. Is it sarcastic, loaded with innuendo or does it have a hint of intimation?  

 

3. Always state the situation objectively and acknowledge what’s going on

State what you don’t intend and clearly express what you want. Let’s go back to the previous example. You’ve observed the body language at this point, and deciphered that something is really wrong. Now we are all naturally programmed for fight or flight. This is not the time for flight even though every muscle in your body is strongly suggesting that!  It is the time to get ready, gear up for the situation and confront it.

 

State the situation and facts clearly. For instance, “I have been watching TV for the past 3 hours and 20 minutes (even if it feels like 10 minutes) and I notice that you are preparing dinner and seem a little tensed.  What I don’t want you to think is that I don’t want to help.  What I do want to do is find out specifically how I can help you.”  

 

4. Listening to understand vs. listening to respond

There is a big difference between listening to respond and listening to understand. The truth is that most times people aren’t looking for a solution from you because they already know the answer. What they are really looking for is your understanding.

 

Repeat back what the other person has told you in their own words to get confirmation.  You do it for 2 reasons; first to make sure you have really understood the problem, second and most importantly, your affirmation gives them the confidence that they’ve been understood.  Let’s say your spouse or partner comes up and says “I am tired of being responsible for everything around here.” Instead of responding instantly with “how can you say that,” count till 3 before speaking, and recap the statement in their own words.  “What I am hearing you say is that you are really tired of juggling everything and need a break. Is that correct?”

 

5.Clarify context and brainstorm solutions

What does context really mean? It’s really about understanding where the other person is coming from, understanding the background and digging deeper to find out exactly what is going on before you jump and provide solutions. So you might say something like this, “what is the most challenging issue you’re dealing with right now?”  Then you can brainstorm solutions together and get on the same page.

 

Rinse and repeat. Apply the same rules in a business context, once you’ve had the opportunity to practice the 5 step framework at home. Before you do that, be sure to have your spouse or partner rate you on how well you applied the principles on a scale of 1-5 (1 being I need a 360 turnaround, and 5 being I am an excellent communicator). I wish you all the best in your journey of becoming a stellar communicator. I’ll leave you to ponder on this quote from George Bernard Shaw, “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has already taken place.”


  
  

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