Thursday, October 29, 2009

3 Things You Can Do Today To Communicate Better

Yesterday's post sparked some good conversation in the comments section (check it out here), but I realized that just saying communication is something worth improving isn't the same as doing it.
(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.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I know those shoulders! And that beard. : )

Good post. I know I would do well to listen better.

CanAmGirl said...

Putting the degree to some introspective use ;)

It is difficult to listen when you're too busy talking about yourself isn't it?

kelly said...

Good tips! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

What a helpful and witty little post! :) Love the blog!

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

Christina, great points. It's getting harder and harder to be a great listener as the web and networking become more "real time". Tons to do, and almost never enough hours to get it all done. Listening is now, more than ever, a highly sought after quality....we all need to make more time to practice being intentional listeners. Thanks for a great post.

megstar said...

Hey that's us!

Rick said...

Hey, I took that picture from the wedding!

Christina said...

Eric emailed me that picture after the event, and I never thought about who took it. I'm sorry -- adding photo credit now. :-)

synthfiend said...

I have to admit that I am not a great listener. The way my brain works, I have little patience for "small talk" and I'm always distracted by wanting someone to get to the point if I feel that they aren't. I do better with listening if there are fewer other distractions happening during the conversation.

[note: I have ADHD and I probably come across a certain way to someone who is communicating with me - but while they may think I seem detached or uncaring, that's not accurate. Some of that, I bet, comes from the fact that it really does take some mental work to stay "tuned in to their channel" so to speak.]

I think these are great communication suggestions. I'd have to also add that putting thought into exactly what you are trying to communicate really helps get the point across once you do (as opposed to a "start talking and you'll get your point across eventually). Much like the composition of an email or really any writing, if you first capture someone's attention with a reason for them to listen, you'll have a more captive audience.

Rick said...

Photo credit wasn't necessary, I was just excitedly observing. But Thanks