Communication is a requirement for almost any job and almost any life activity.
Here are the top 7 communication skills that will help you succeed in work and life.
1. Understand The Intent of the Communication
We all begin communication with an intent to achieve some purpose. The Intent of what you want to achieve is the most important thing to focus on when you communicate. And you should also think about the intent of the person and/or group participating in the communication. The more both sender and receiver agree on the Intent of the communication the more likely the outcome of the communication will be successful.
#1 above is the Intent of the communication. In order to achieve your intent you have to listen to the other person. You have to listen to the community. You have to listen to the Experts. You have to know if they understand your intent.
I recommend practicing active listening. Active listening involves paying close attention to what the other person is saying, asking clarifying questions, and rephrasing what the person says to ensure understanding (“So, what you’re saying is…”). Through active listening, you can better understand what the other person is trying to say, and can respond appropriately.
3. Constructing the Right Message and the right channel to Achieve your Intent
Once you know the Intent of your communication you need to construct the message and pick the best channel to achieve your intent. For example, some serious conversations (layoffs, changes in salary, etc.) are almost always best done in person. You should also think about the person with whom you wish to speak – if they are very busy people (such as your boss, perhaps), you might want to convey your message through email. People will appreciate your thoughtful means of communication, and will be more likely to respond positively to you.
4. Short and to the Point
I use the “2” sentences and shup-up strategy. Here is the strategy I use:
I figure out my intent.
I construct the best message and pick the best channel to achieve my intent.
I make my point in as few sentences as possible and then shut up and listen.
The fundamental key to effective communication is to state your intent in as few words as possible. Think of communication like a faucet or fire hose with “Data” as the water. It is important to meter the flow of information to the context. And it is ALWAYS better to use the least about of water to achieve the goal.
Say what you want clearly and directly, whether you’re speaking to someone in person, on the phone, or via email. If you ramble on, your listener will either tune you out or will be unsure of exactly what you want. Think about what you want to say before you say it; this will help you to avoid talking excessively and/or confusing your audience.
Verbal Communication Skills
5. Nonverbal Communication
Your body language, eye contact, hand gestures, and tone all color the message you are trying to convey. A relaxed, open stance (arms open, legs relaxed), and a friendly tone will make you appear approachable, and will encourage others to speak openly with you. Eye contact is also important; you want to look the person in the eye to demonstrate that you are focused on the person and the conversation (however, be sure not to stare at the person, which can make him or her uncomfortable).
Also pay attention to other people’s nonverbal signals while you are talking. Often, nonverbal signals convey how a person is really feeling. For example, if the person is not looking you in the eye, he or she might be uncomfortable or hiding the truth.
Nonverbal Communication Skills
Giving and looking for feedback is critical to communication success. Managers and supervisors should continuously look for ways to provide employees with constructive feedback, be it through email, phone calls, or weekly status updates. Giving feedback involves giving praise as well – something as simple as saying “good job” to an employee can greatly increase motivation.
Similarly, you should be able to accept, and even encourage, feedback from others. Listen to the feedback you are given, ask clarifying questions if you are unsure of the issue, and make efforts to implement the feedback.
7. Be “More Attractive” not “Less Repulsive”
My father used to say that “you catch more flies with honey, than vinegar.” Essentially the moral is: on average its better to be “Attractive” then “Repulsive.” That is particularly true about communication.
Communication is about information. And the more information you have the better the communication. You will receive more information if you are open and attractive than if you are closed and/or repulsive. So as a general rule, since we want as much information as we can get, it is better to be open and attractive. The question I would have is why would anyone think being closed are repulsive be better for communication?
There are specific traits the enhance attractiveness:
Friendliness: Through a friendly tone, a personal question, or simply a smile, you will encourage your coworkers to engage in open and honest communication with you. This is important in both face-to-face and written communication. When you can, personalize your emails to coworkers and/or employees – a quick “I hope you all had a good weekend” at the start of an email can personalize a message and make the recipient feel more appreciated.
Empathy: – Even when you disagree with an employer, coworker, or employee, it is important for you to understand and respect their point of view. Using phrases as simple as “I understand where you are coming from” (And of course actually understanding where they are coming from) demonstrate that you have been listening to the other person and respect their opinions.
Open-Mindedness: – A good communicator should enter any conversation with a flexible, open mind. Be open to listening to and understanding the other person’s point of view, rather than simply getting your message across. By being willing to enter into a dialogue, even with people with whom you disagree, you will be able to have more honest, productive conversations.
Respect: – People will be more open to communicating with you if you convey respect for them and their ideas. Simple actions like using a person’s name, making eye contact, and actively listening when a person speaks will make the person feel appreciated. On the phone, avoid distractions and stay focused on the conversation.Convey respect through email by taking the time to edit your message. If you send a sloppily written, confusing email, the recipient will think you do not respect her enough to think through your communication with her.
Models of Communication
In order to understand how all this fits together I offer the following.
Standard Model (Based on Shannon Weaver Model)
Communication as a Process
Putting the Standard Communication Model into a Process Flow.
This list of the 7 keys to being better understood is intended help you succeed more by helping you focus more on how you say something than what you actually say.
A fundamental intent of most of us is being better understood. But, in reality, mutual understanding is a very rare by-product of communication.
Let me give you an example of a sentence taken from a recent article exploring the nature of human consciousness:
“Neuroplastic mechanisms relevant to the growing number of empirical studies of the capacity of directed attention and mental effort systematically alter brain function.”
Exciting? Hardly! In fact, most of the words you read barely register in your brain. And, unless you specifically wanted to know something about neuroplastic mechanisms, you stopped thinking this after the first 2 words.
The fact that the words we actually speak barely register with the listener is not new science. There is a lot of research demonstrating that the words we speak are the least important part of communication when you have face-to-face conversations with others.
So what should you do? Try to focus on the list below when you talk to someone one-no-one or to a group of people in a presentation.
Eye contact – try to look in people’s eyes and try to connect saying are you listening to me and do you understand me. This eye connection is critical to effective connections.
Kind facial expression – People want to be around other people that are kind and nice.
Warm tone of voice – This may be difficult, but you should try to be welcoming and warm in your tone
Expressive hand and body gestures – Don’t speak like your a statue.
Relaxed disposition – Try to be relaxed first, then should come easy
Slow speech rate – A key benefit of this is that the listener has more time to digest what you are staying.
Brevity – My general rule is 2 sentences and than take a pause and see what the listen does.
Effective communication is based on trust, and if we don’t trust the speaker, we’re not going to listen to their words. Trust begins with eye contact because we need to see the person’s face to evaluate if they are being deceitful or not. In fact, when we are being watched, cooperation increases.
Eye contact increases trustworthiness and encourages future cooperation, and a happy gaze will increase emotional trust. However, if we see the slightest bit of anger or fear on the speaker’s face, our trust will rapidly decrease.
A key thing to remember here is that you can’t fake trustworthiness because the muscles around your mouth and eyes that reflect contentment and sincerity are involuntary. Solution: if you think about someone you love, or an event that brought you deep joy and satisfaction, a “Mona Lisa” smile will appear on your face and the muscles around your eyes will soften.
The tone of your voice is equally important when it comes to understanding what a person is really trying to say. If the facial expression expresses one emotion, but if the tone conveys a different one, neural dissonance takes place in the brain, causing the person confusion. The result: trust erodes, suspicion increases, and cooperation decreases.
If nothing else, I would like to ask you take try and implement the last two keys, slow down and brevity. When you speak, slow down! Slow speech rates will increase the ability for the listener to comprehend what you are saying, and this is true for both young and older adults.
Slower speaking will also deepen that person’s respect for you, Speaking slowly is not as natural as it may seem, and as children we automatically speak fast. But you can teach yourself, and your children to slow down by consciously cutting your speech rate in half. A slow voice has a calming effect on a person who is feeling anxious, whereas a loud fast voice will stimulate excitement, anger, or fear.
One excellent way to help you slow down is to follow my simple rule, 2 sentences and shut up. When you construct a message try to figure a way to say it in 2 sentences and then stop and listen to what the audience thinks.
Try this experiment: pair up with a partner and speak so slowly that … you … leave … 5 … seconds … of … silence … between … each … word. You’ll become aware of your negative inner speech that tells you that you should babble on endlessly and as fast as possible. It’s a trap, because the listener’s brain can only recall about 10 seconds of content! That’s why, when we train people in Compassionate Communication, we ask participants to speak only one sentence at a time, slowly, and then listen deeply as the other person speaks for ten seconds or less. This exercise will increase your overall consciousness about the importance of the first 7 elements of highly effective communication. Then, and only then, will you truly grasp the deeper meaning that is imparted by each word spoken by others.
Change – Complex systems are in a complex state of flux. Focus on what you can control. Do not become attached to one way to do something. Small independent book stores gave way to Barnes and Nobel and other big box book sellers. Then then gave way to Amazon. Something will replace Amazon.
Interdependence – We depend on other systems to operate. Tight Coupling – one system fails and all other systems fail – The heart. Loose Coupling – one system fail does not cause the entire system to crash – a kidney.
Counterparty Risk – The possibility that other parties won’t deliver what they are expected to deliver.
Second order effects – Every action has a consequence, and every consequence has a consequence. Rent control after WWII in New York City. Lack of cash flowing into a building means the owner did not maintain the building. lack of maintenance meant less buildings were rentable. So, Rent control actually resulted in less rental property.
Normal Accidents – Mistakes, breakdowns, and failures happen in every system. Often what we do after the accident is critical. Accidents in rocketing men into space will happen. But, the key is what do we do after it happens. Do we make it safer or more complex as a result.
Deconstruction – Separating complex systems into the smallest possible parts.
Measurement – Collecting Data as the System operates. – Accounting, Sales
Key Performance Indicator – KPI – Not all measurements are equally important. Focus on the critical.
“In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet,” the Texas Republican and possible 2016 presidential contender said in a statement distributed by his office. “It puts the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service, and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities and higher prices for consumers. The Internet should not operate at the speed of government.”
Mr. Obama on Monday called on the FCC to create rules governing access to the Internet “ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online.”
The problem with Cruz’s attack is that he is attacking the one suggestion that pretty much as no hope of happening.
But, what about “Transparency” Mr. Cruz? Do you think the Community has the right to set standards of behavior on the Community members. Of course you do, you are a Christian. And you believe very strongly that the Community can and should have Community Values.
So when it comes to the Internet, shouldn’t Transparency be a basic Standard. In fact, shouldn’t we have transparency in all public policy?
Here is what Obama Proposed:
The FCC is an independent agency, and ultimately this decision is theirs alone. I believe the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online. The rules I am asking for are simple, common-sense steps that reflect the Internet you and I use every day, and that some ISPs already observe. These bright-line rules include:
No blocking. If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way, every player — not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP — gets a fair shot at your business.
No throttling. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others — through a process often called “throttling” — based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.
Increased transparency. The connection between consumers and ISPs — the so-called “last mile” — is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. So, I am also asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
No paid prioritization. Simply put: No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth. So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.
The rules include no blocking by a website or service, no intentional slowing down of service by providers, increased transparency, and no paid prioritization on service speed.
Net neutrality rules are intended to provide companies the same speed and access to lines as others and curb undue influence from cable corporations. Proponents say such oversight helps provide a more level playing field for Internet access but opponents see such rules as government overreach in an area, they argue, that has thrived without them.
This is what happens when people use a 1st century fixed text to solve 21st Century Problems.
In Telecommunications, one can always buy additional bandwidth. And those with the most money can always buy the most bandwidth. That is not the issue.
The key issue “in disagreement” is the amount of “Transparency” the government will recommend. (I know about making it a Telecommunication Service and not an Information service, but that is not where the battle is or should be).
For example, IPv6 added additional Classes of Services and their management (QoS enhancement features were introduced and must be used to configure a Slot Table Class of Service on the routers.) I don’t think Ted Cruz understands any of that. Yet, because he has a bible, he believes he knows everything he needs to know to recommend public policy.
What Cruz and all the other religious fundamentalist cannot understand, is tThe question is not who manages the Routing Tables, rather, the question is how much transparency to those routing tables should the community have for analysis and comment.
We think it would very little oversight to make the “Internet” function optimally. But the people doing the oversight cannot expect to manage the Internet optimally, if their world view is based on a 1st Century static text book.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Monday waded into the debate over “net neutrality” by suggesting that Internet service should be regulated more heavily to protect consumers.
A look at the issue and what’s at stake:
Q. What’s net neutrality?
A. Net neutrality is the idea that Internet service providers shouldn’t manipulate, slow or block data moving across its networks. As long as content isn’t against the law, such as child pornography or pirated music, a file posted on one site will load generally at the same speed as a similarly sized file on another site. It means anyone can connect to the Internet and offer content without having to pay to reach consumers.
Q. Why is it being debated now?
The Federal Communications Commission embraced the idea of net neutrality in a 2010 rule. But last January, a federal court knocked down that rule after it was challenged by Verizon. Since then, the FCC has been trying to figure out how it can enforce open Internet principles in a way that would survive any future legal challenges.
Q. Doesn’t everyone want an open Internet?
A. Yes, although not everyone defines it the same way. The major cable and telecommunications companies that supply most of the nation’s broadband say blocking or slowing down content would never be in their best interest commercially. But, some industry officials say, data hogs like Netflix might need to bear some of the cost of handling heavy traffic. And they want flexibility in thinking up new ways to package and sell Internet services. The industry says that’s only fair, considering the companies are investing hundreds of billions of dollars into a network infrastructure that, so far, has prospered without much government intervention.
Q. So what did Obama propose?
A. Obama on Monday suggested that the FCC reclassify Internet service as a public utility using the 1934 Communications Act. He also called for a strict ban on “paid prioritization,” meaning that Internet companies can’t charge content providers for faster access. Obama’s proposal falls in line with what much of the public and consumer advocates want, according to a review of the record-breaking 3.7 million public comments filed with the FCC on the issue this year. But Internet providers and several high-ranking Republicans in Congress say the proposal would stifle new developments and kill jobs. In the immediate hours after Obama’s announcement, stocks for major cable providers tumbled.
Q. What happens next?
A. Probably nothing for a while. While FCC commissioners are politically appointed and Obama’s statement indicates political pressure, the FCC isn’t under any obligation to do what the president wants. Further, the issue of net neutrality is so highly technical and legally complex that even FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler — who was appointed by Obama — suggested that the president may have oversimplified things. In a statement issued Monday, Wheeler said applying Title II of the 1934 Communications Act raises “substantive legal questions,” including whether that law would cover mobile devices.
Wednesday’s ADP number suggested a sub-200K reading for today’s May BLS jobs report. That would be a significant disappointment after April’s robust 288K. But ADP is far from a flawless indicator. So estimates for today’s number are all over the map. Some analysts still expect another number well above 200K. Moody’s Mark Zandi emails: “May payroll employment should increase by 185,000 and the unemployment rate will tick back up to 6.4 percent. While the expected job gain is a bit disappointing … it is encouraging that the job gains are increasingly broad-based across industries, pay scales, and regions of the country.
“Underlying job growth, abstracting from the vagaries of the monthly data, is close to 220,000. This is a step-up from the 185,000 monthly average experienced in the three years 2011-2013. Behind this pick-up in job growth is the swing from government job losses to modest gains and steady solid gains in construction employment. Job growth of 220,000 per month is about double the pace of job growth necessary to reduce unemployment, even at a normalized pace of labor force growth.”
So here is the challenge – Determine what is Actionable from this story.
Here are the steps to determine “What Is Actionable”:
Determine your “Intent.”
This is the first and most important thing.
You need to figure out what you want to accomplish.
For me, there is nothing immediately actionable. But, for a Stock Broker there may be.
Determine the “Facts.”
What is the ADP – The ADP National Employment Report® is published monthly by the ADP Research Institute® in close collaboration with Moody’s Analytics and its experienced team of labor market researchers. The ADP National Employment Report provides a monthly snapshot of U.S. nonfarm private sector employment based on actual transactional payroll data.
Defining the ADP as what it is should be easy to confirm as a “Fact.” The ADP exists and is published monthly by the ADP Research Institute
Is the ADP Accurate? Probably not. But here is the key point, is it accurate enough for your Intent?
This is a good example of how “Facts” are “Fungible.” Or what is a “Fact” can change based on the “Eye of the Beholder.”
Determine the “Conclusions.”
Based on the data presented what are your conclusions.
This is the analysis phase
Given everything you know, what do you conclude from this group of bits.
Most importantly does this group of bits change your mind on anything?
For me, since I cannot know if the key data (the ADP Numbers) are truly a “Fact” I can draw no “new” conclusions about this. The fact that I can draw no new conclusions is in itself important.
Finally determine what is “Actionable.”
If you went to the time and effort to read and analyze this group of bits, what do you do with it.
Since I don’t believe the “Facts” and I draw no new conclusions may action is to not do anything with this.
Do you see how this works? This is how I see a Learning Community operating. I would like to see experts figure out if there are new facts and if there are new conclusions from those facts.