“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
The inability to clearly communicate is one of the single most problematic issues in life.
Poor communication can ruin relationships, thwart business endeavors, and even start wars. Imagine how much of an impact effective communication can your own life, whether it be in your relationships or at your job.
If you want to communicate better, and subsequently improve your personal and business relationships, you first need to understand how to communicate clearly.
Two Ears, One Mouth
Just like mom told you. Effective communicators listen far more than they speak. There are several reasons for this.
First, listening is gathering information, and when you communicate about a subject, it’s always best to have all the information possible at your disposal. The more you know, the better you can discuss something.
Second, there is a psychological aspect to being regarded as a person of few words that assumes that you are confident. This applies to people who don’t ramble when they speak, not those who lack confidence and stumble over their soft-spoken words, if they talk at all.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
There is a fine line between interested and annoying when it comes to asking questions, but if you don’t ask any at all, you can easily seem disinterested.
Along with eye contact, asking questions is the best thing you can do to assure others that you are paying attention and interested in what they are saying. Not to mention allowing you to gather more information, which we’ve covered.
Just don’t cross the line from interested to badgering. Asking a question here and there for clarification or insight is good, but interrupting constantly to ask something is a good way to become the person people avoid talking to.
That applies to interrupting in general, by the way. Meaning, don’t do it unless it’s vital. There are few things as rude as interrupting someone while they are speaking, and it hurts your ability to communicate well.
Get to the Point
If you’re relaxing on a beach with your significant other with nowhere to be, you can let your conversation ramble as much as your heart desires, or until they say something about it.
Otherwise, keep it short and to the point. One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Thomas Jefferson, who so eloquently said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
Say what it is you mean to say, and leave the long descriptions for your next novel. People feel trapped when they are trying to get information from someone who insists on explaining every aspect of the situation in excruciating detail before ever addressing the meat of the matter.
Say what you need to say and move on.
Choose Your Words Carefully
And here lies the cause of endless failed relationships. Words are powerful things. Even if you don’t realize or understand in your consciousness, subconsciously your brain (which is much smarter than you) hears words and assigns meanings, emotions, memories and all sorts of other tags to them.
When words are chosen poorly, they are received poorly as well. This is the reason that listening, asking and using an economy of words is so important.
You allow yourself time to absorb information, think it through and decide what your response is before it ever leaves your lips. Your brain can do a lot of tweaking in a millisecond of silence, but nothing can catch those words once they leave your lips.
Besides the obvious issues with using the wrong words in a relationship, using the right words proves you to be someone who understands the conversation or situation and some who can intelligently communicate about it. It exudes confidence and other leadership qualities. It makes people want to listen when you speak.
Most people don’t realize how much better your life can be with effective communication, but if you take this advice to heart, I promise you will see a difference in your relationships, work or home, very quickly.
(Image courtesy of timrb under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license.)