"Communication is not about speaking what we think. Communication is about ensuring others hear what we mean." - Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek is a motivational speaker and author of British-American descent. He has written five books, including Start with why and the infinite game.
He distinguishes between the art and the act of listening, which in this case relates to communication.
When someone says something, and you parrot back their words, congratulations, your ears work. That is the act of listening. The art of listening creates an environment that allows the other person to feel heard. Feel is an emotional word, which means going beyond just knowing someone listened to the words.
Effective communication allows people to feel heard and understood. The other side of the coin is that an effective communicator can make people want to listen to what they have to say. Two hundred thousand people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther speak. He gave a speech whose effect has echoed for decades. He was an effective communicator.
In this post, I'll explain how to communicate effectively and why it's a skill that anybody can learn.
What is communication?
Effective communication is crucial. Communication is exchanging information by voice, writing, or any other medium. Our human nature requires us to communicate to build bonds. On an emotional level, effective communication is critical to our human life.
Communication is a skill. Anyone can learn to communicate effectively. Despite there being people who are just naturally good at speaking, anyone can learn how to communicate. Due to the advent of the internet, communication has taken several forms. People communicate through emails, podcasts, videos, etc. No one is born with an intuitive ability to write an effective application letter; everyone has to learn the best way to advertise themselves so they can land that dream job.
What are good communication skills?
In the modern world, there are so many channels of communication. The internet has made it all possible. We are effectively part of a global network where we can get in touch with just about anyone globally.
On a day-to-day basis, we receive, send and process large numbers of messages but communicating successfully goes far beyond just sharing information.
Here are the top communication skills you require to ensure you communicate effectively.
Active listening is paying attention to a speaker, comprehending what they're saying, responding and reflecting on what they are saying, and storing the information for later use. This keeps both the listener and the speaker engaged in the conversation.
According to Simon Sinek, this often involves replacing judgment with curiosity. Humans tend to be very judgmental, so this one can be pretty tough to pick up. One should try to be curious as to why someone has a particular point of view. This creates an environment where one may genuinely express themselves, and once they have spoken everything they want, they are more willing to listen to the other party.
Interrupting someone as they try to speak or communicate usually inhibits effective communication. Easy ways to be an active listener is to encourage the individual with words like "Go on", "Tell me more," or "What else?" Eventually, the individual will let it all out, and that is when you'll have a safe space to respond.
Avoid distractions such as cell phones, laptops, or other work while carefully listening and preparing questions, remarks, or thoughts to respond effectively.
Concentrate on what the other person is saying and how they're saying it instead of thinking about what you'll say. Pay attention to other people's facial expressions, body language, and tone to increase your active listening skills. If you require additional information, ask follow-up questions or have them repeat what they've said to ensure that you get everything.
In his book Victorious Attitude, Orison Marden wrote; "If you utter a lie with the conviction that you are speaking the truth, people will believe what you say, whereas if you proclaim the truth in a weak, hesitating voice, in a doubting manner, no one one will believe you... Your timid, doubting, hesitating manner would queer all your chances of doing what you wanted to do."
Nobody will want to listen to what you have to say without confidence. How can you communicate confidently? You can start by practising simple things like speaking while maintaining eye contact, and as Jordan Peterson mentions in his book 12 rules for life, walking up straight with your shoulders back. You are also likely to be even more confident if you prepare answers ahead of time.
Volume and Clarity
Clarity is very important when communicating. You do not want the listener to only get a vague understanding of the topic you're trying to address. It would help if you strived to keep your words as straightforward as possible.
It takes the skill to adjust your speaking voice so you can be heard in various situations, and it's essential for efficient communication. This can be practiced by speaking in an empty room or with a partner to give you feedback, especially if you face large crowds.
With all the available options, picking the right one is important. Always consider your audience and the information you want to share. For example, sending a simple SMS is alright when speaking to a friend about mundane everyday stuff, but the same can't be said when speaking with a potential employer. It may be better to email or talk to them over the phone than SMS.
Respectful communication means paying attention and responding politely to others, even if we disagree. This allows us to express ourselves, understand the perspectives of others, develop deep ties, and collaborate to solve problems. Allowing others to talk without interruption in a team or group situation is a fundamental communication skill linked to respect. Staying on topic, asking clear questions, and completely addressing any questions you've been asked are examples of respectful communication.
We are probably familiar with people who take days or weeks to respond to messages. It is often frustrating and results in a fractured relationship with that particular individual. If you are probably too busy to respond, make sure you acknowledge receiving the message and let the person know you will respond when you have the time. People who respond quickly are often viewed as more effective communicators.