GOOD communication is a gift you give others. Communicating effectively requires technical proficiency, but all the technical skills in the world will not help you communicate effectively if you are not interested in other people and in the world around you, and if you are not prepared to share and participate in a give-and-take. Think about how you would like people to treat you. Do you remember the person’s name? Do you greet people in a friendly manner? Do you speak to them with courtesy and respect or are you loud, abusive and critical? Is your overall demeanour pleasing? A good communicator knows that what we communicate non-verbally can be more meaningful than the words we use. Take a look at yourself in a full-length mirror and analyse what you see. Posture, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact and appearance clearly communicate our attitude to others. Are you sending a non-verbal message that supports your words? Or, do you need to stand a little straighter, fidget a little less, smile a bit more? These are simple adjustments you can make immediately.
A great communicator focuses on the person with whom he is speaking. Great communicators like former American President Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger share a common trait. When they meet someone, they focus so completely on that person for the time they spend together, even if it is only for a few short minutes that they make the other person feel like the most important person in their universe. While your focus may not have quite the same impact as a famous personality, it will definitely enhance the effectiveness of your communication.
A good communicator knows that vocal quality is important in communicating attitude and in enhancing the effectiveness of a vocal message. Grammar and vocabulary alone will not help you if the sound of your voice puts a listener to sleep, assuming they can even hear you. No one wants to listen to someone who mumbles, drones on in a monotone, squeaks or speaks too slowly or too quickly. By working on your diction and the pitch, pacing, and modulation of your voice, you will become a much more interesting speaker. A good communicator is positive and polite. Whining, complaining, blaming and making excuses are detriments to good communication. So are criticism and insults. Work on eliminating the negatives from your conversation and watch what a positive effect that has on your ability to communicate.
A good communicator does not get caught up in his own rhetoric; he focuses on the other person. His conversation is “you focused” rather than “I focused.” I-strain, a indication of both arrogance and insecurity, is one of the taboos of good conversation, as are off-colour or discriminatory jokes, personal relationships and sexual proclivities, health or diets, personal tragedies, cost of anything personal, income, controversial topics (politics, religion), and asking for free advice from professionals.
A good communicator listens as much or more than he talks. Listening is one of the most effective ways to show interest in another person. Effective listening involves more than remaining silent. Nod your head in agreement, make little response noises, use prompters like “interesting” or “tell me more,” or ask pertinent questions to show you are paying attention. Open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer encourage the other person to talk. Look at the speaker when you listen rather than letting your eyes wander. Beware, though, of letting your eyes glaze over.
A good communicator participates in a give and take and contributes to the conversation. Read magazines and newspapers, especially the editorial pages, to keep abreast of what is happening in the world. At least 30 per cent of the reading you do should be outside your field of endeavour. Only being able to discuss topics relating to your work will make you a very dull person very quickly, even among your colleagues.
A good communicator develops technical proficiency. Call your local schools and colleges to see if they offer courses in English. A dictionary, a thesaurus or synonym finder, a good grammar book and language tapes are good investments for anyone wishing to develop or maintain language skills. A dictionary is also a good resource for the proper pronunciation of words.
A good communicator practises. Reading aloud quality publications will help you develop a comfort level in saying words and sentences correctly, thereby helping you learn proper grammar. Reading aloud will also help develop your ear for the language. Watching quality movies and television programmes somewhat above the level of grunt and punch action thrillers is another way to develop your ear for a language. A good communicator gets help. Most professional speakers work with speech or presentation skills coaches. While you may not want to resort to a personal coach, there are organisations like Toastmasters International (www.toastmasters.org) that can help you develop your oral speaking and presentation skills. Amateur acting groups, too, might benefit you even if you are not interested in becoming an actor. Do not hesitate to join either; you will find people at different levels of proficiency.
A good communicator masters the rules of etiquette and good manners since these are what grease the wheels of effective interpersonal relationships. Learn the proper way to make introductions and to greet people because that gets interactions started in a positive manner. A good communicator sparkles. Let your light shine through when you interact with others. The Roman Publius Syrius said, “Speech is a mirror of the soul. As a man speaks, so is he. Do the work necessary to make sure your communication skills reflect the image you want others to have of you.”