How do you make your communication more effective? First asses your current communication skills and learn how you can improve your communication skills.
Listening is the beginning of all communication skills:
‘No one means all he says and very few say all they mean, for words, are slippery and thought is viscous.
We speak at about 125 words per minute but can take in information at four or five times this rate. The mind is therefore prone to wander. The excellent listener uses this ‘extra time to think about what the speaker is saying. What do they really mean?
What conclusion are they driving towards? Repeat back what you think you disagree with: ‘So, if I understand you correctly you are saying ..
If you don’t listen effectively then you miss crucial information. You will also miss nuances and body language that hint and clearly spoken words. There are two types of ‘not listening that we all suffer from, more or less often:
1. Switched-off mode – attention declines after just a few minutes and is affected by factors such as a heavy lunch or a late night. We take in fewer of the words that are and spoken understand less. Perhaps we begin to think about what we will say rather than what the other person is saying.
We interrupt them to respond or put in our own view or change the subject. This is aggressive behavior. It signals that we don’t care what they have to say and this is likely to harden their position,
2. listening through a filter – Our preconceptions and prejudices filter new ideas and information. We hear what we want to hear and edit out the rest.
We deal with complex situations by simplifying them so we ignore what is said that does not fit with what we expect. Dealing with our own closed minds or selective listening (communication skills) is hard but the techniques described below can help.
The term ‘active listening’ describes a process of repeating what someone has said back to them, in your own words, in order to check to understand, to demonstrate that you have been listening, and to show some empathy.
1. Ask questions to test understanding – ‘So, does that mean…?’ This checks that you really do understand and also sends a positive message that you are listening and interested. Phrases such as ‘Yes, I see’ do not help to listen. They can come out when you are not listening and don’t see.
2. Summarize what the other person has said in order to check to understand – Any feedback you can give will make the discussion less tedious for you, helps you to concentrate, allow you to seek mutual benefits, and send positive messages to the other person.
3. When it is your turn to speak always say something That relates to what the other person has said – the other person you listen to and think about what he has said. If you completely ignore what they said to you. Even if they are talking nonsense respond to it.
4. Make eye contact – It is harder for attention to slip away if you are looking at someone and they at you. You can also pickup visual clues to their thinking. Don’t allow meetings to be interrupted. There are occasions when you just have to take a call even at the risk of causing offense. But if you must take the interruption, do it outside, Keep it short, and apologize.
The other party may be very sensitive to nuances that you may or may not have intended. It is possible to lose your position completely because of a misunderstanding or offense that you did not mean to give. Choose words carefully and, equally, listen carefully.
The person who talks and does not listen is often outwitted by the clever listener. Don’t talk for more than a couple of minutes before getting the other party to respond, because:
*The other party may become bored and switch off, leaving you amusing yourself. Asking questions forces them to pay attention.
* It is hard to talk and observe at the same time.
Since the purpose of speaking is to communicate, use language the other person will understand. Avoid jargon: they may not tell you that they haven’t a clue what you are talking about. Repeat and summarize what you say and get the other party to repeat key points that you think you have made.
Key points in talking effectively are clarity and brevity, which have been dealt with earlier, also:
Tone, which refers to the inflections of voice, gesture, and posture that convey as much meaning as the words. Is your tone effective? Do you raise your voice without really thinking about it?
Colour, which is the way we link what we say to people’s interests and make it comprehensible and personal to them. An example would be using banking examples for bankers and sales examples for salesmen.
‘Flags’ in speech can help effective communication. Now, this point is of the utmost importance to us …’ they won’t misunderstand that! A powerful personality may walk from the meeting having won every exchange – but lost the war. Don’t debate, this is not a game, it is not about being right, it is about getting someone to do what you want them to do and logic may not be the right approach.
When the point is won stop the discussion … carry on and find you have plucked defeat from the mouth of victory.
Even when the deal is done, a foolish word can ruin it.
Don’t continue arguing when the other party is ready to agree – the moment may be lost.
Successful negotiators learn a lot about the other party before and during meetings. You will conduct effective questioning in parallel with the dealing but be subtle: this is not an interrogation.
Consistently successful negotiators seem, often unconsciously, to broadly follow the approach outlined below. Start with broad questions, finding out all the background relevant to the other party—the specific inquiry and discussion homes in on important issues that provide material for trading.
Questioning has always a important role in communication skills. Start with open questions. These do not suggest an answer and do not allow for a yes or no response. The other person must give some information to you and is drawn into talking and may tell you things that you would not have thought to ask about.
It is, therefore, a powerful way to seek leads to follow up with other questions. An example of an open question might be ‘Where do we take things from here?’ Your question invites a whole range of responses.
Closed questions, in contrast, are very precise and specific and may call for a yes or no response. Their place in any conversation may be where you need a precise answer, such as ‘Are you able to complete by next week?’ The answer won’t give you clues to mutual benefits but none are being sought at this stage.
Pose context questions that find out something about the person, the organization, what their plans are, etc. these should be open questions: ‘How are you thinking of expanding further beyond the purchase of this company?
Interests and problems
From these you follow up along avenues opened by the responses to seek interests and problems. ‘So, does that mean that you are looking for distribution overseas as well? You store the response for later or you may follow up immediately to demonstrate a shared interest or mutual benefit.
The most powerful statements in selling and in negotiating are those that show how you can satisfy the needs of the other party. ‘Although we can’t meet your original price, you have explained how important future supply is to you and we are uniquely placed to meet your needs there.’
The shift from questions which encourage a discursive answer to detailed questions is sometimes referred to as a funnel technique. You narrow the focus of enquiry until you concentrate on a precise need, problem or interest. As with all such mental ‘models’ it is also important to appreciate its limitations. During discussion further clues may lead you to other lines of enquiry.
Throughout negotiations seeks clues to the real position of the other party. Never forget questioning and testing understanding should continue until the deal is done.
Let me summarize where I think we have got to … you can identify and resolve misunderstanding and by emphasizing what has been agreed you create a momentum of progress. You focus everyone present on the matters still to be resolved and as the person who summarizes, you influence the direction of discussion.
Write a summary of an important meeting which you should sends to everyone who was present. If necessary get them confirm it as a correct record list:
These are some effective communication skills you should use….