(photo taken by Rick O'Neil)
Since I work in the field, I thought I might be able to help. I've written ad copy, radio scripts, fundraising letters... built and maintained donor relationships... edited and written for websites of every stripe... and currently teach public speaking and interpersonal communication at the university level. So while I don't pretend to know everything, I do know a few things.
If -- like me -- you're always looking for ways to learn and grow, here are three things you can start doing right now to be a better communicator.
1. Listen. Maybe it seems counterintuitive, but effective communication can only occur when all the participants feel heard. Many arguments aren't based on real disagreement -- they're based on misperceptions about what you think someone else meant (and didn't mean at all). If you take the time to listen -- without multitasking and trying to decide what you'll say when it's your turn -- you're going to be a better communicator.
2. Ask questions. You have to actually do Step 1 before you can do this one, because otherwise you won't have any material to ask about (I'm so tricky). But once you start listening and wanting to understand someone else, you're going to demonstrate interest by asking follow-up questions. You know you love it when people want to know more about your kids, your painting, your (fill in the passion blank)... so why not be the person you love talking to?
3. Be mindful. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "mindfulness" two ways: "bearing in mind" and "to be aware." When you're in conversation, other people won't say everything they mean. But if you "bear in mind" and work "to be aware," you might catch the slight pause or wet eyelashes that indicate a deeper meaning to the words he or she is saying. Those tiny elements can radically change the meaning -- and the direction -- of the conversation.
"Hey!" you might be saying. "You gave me three tips to communicate better, but none of them involve ME saying a word!"
Yep. That's right.