How many times have you said something and realised that person, or people, on receiving end have not fully understood what you meant or headed off and done something different to what you intended?
Have you ever finished a presentation or meeting wishing you had put your point across better?
This article is not about keeping cool or holding your temper before you speak, although that would not be a bad thing for many of us at times! The focus is going to be about improving your ability to influence others, especially when communicating verbally.
How often do any of us stop to think before we speak? It is probably fair to suggest that most of us tend to decide what we want to achieve or point we want to put across – then we launch into speaking. If you recognise yourself in this, you are in vast majority. Taking a short time to consider a few other factors can improve our effectiveness. One message which can help to improve our impact (and reduce frustrations!) is to acknowledge: “the meaning of my communication is response I get.”
When we are in face to face communication generally accepted figures indicate that only 7% of impact of our message is due to actual words and balance is made up from non-verbal elements, including tone of voice. Although words themselves are only a small part, and need to be congruent with other elements for our message to carry real impact – they are still vital to effective communication.
It is strange to think how little training we get in speaking and listening as means of communication! Yet, in our adult lives, majority of our interactions are based on verbal communication. When you think back to your school days, how much time was spent on learning to read and write? (Although, when we consider current levels of literacy we may want to debate whether this is particularly effective!)
To improve our impact when we need to deal with people face to face, whether on a one to one basis or in groups, it can help to stop and think of a few things before we launch into whatever we want to say. One of first things is to consider our audience first. When we are “receiving” any communication it passes through various “filters” before we decode message. These can include:
How often, as a sender do we ever take time to think about any of these points? Taking some time think about listener or your audience will improve our ability to communicate with others. We may find ourselves expressing ourselves differently – and more effectively. You may have hear about idea of “put yourself in other’s shoes” or variations on theme. People who are really good communicators do this, whether they are doing it consciously or not. By considering things from other party’s position you will get a different perspective. This enables you to consider your message in more ways – yours and theirs!
- Our own mood and emotions will influence how we receive message.
- Our impression of sender
- Past dealings with that person
- How message impacts on us
- Our level of understanding of words being used
- How we process words
- Our internal “programmes”
As we go through life we develop our own style of expressing ourselves. The key to becoming more effective is to increase our flexibility, so that we can present our messages to suit receivers.
Take a moment to think about options here. Suppose we were to describe a holiday resort.
Imagine clear blue sky, and lovely sea with sun’s rays reflecting off it in bright spots. The white sand of beach, small beach bar with people sitting around, looking tanned and smiling as chat together. The view inland is of bright white cottages and buildings going up hill with dark green leaves of olive trees.
Maybe, you can imagine warmth of sun, feel of sand. The water feels so welcoming as you walk into sea. When you come out of there and head for bar, it is thought of cold drink slipping down and feeling good about being relaxed. The smells of what they are cooking on an open grill waft across to make you think about eating.
Or, is it idea of quiet of bay, broken by occasional sound of a jetski? As you head for bar, you imagine chatter of various conversations, different accents. You can think about music being played and how you might talking with others about place and planning what to do for dinner later. Maybe birds where singing in morning or evening.