Can You Hear Me Now? Top Tips To Make Sure Your Communication Isn’t Breaking Up
We don’t know what we don’t know and this is why communication can be challenging. How many of us can honestly say we’re 100% sure our messages are heard and that we’re always perceived as confident, credible and trustworthy? Have you ever walked away from a meeting, media interview or face-to-face conversation with a client saying to yourself, “I shouldn’t have said what I said,” or “I can’t believe I forgot to say…?”
As a leader, you must be able to clearly communicate your purpose and value. Most of us are under the blurred assumption, “If I communicate a message it’s heard.” In reality, your message may not have been heard at all.
Lindsay Edmonds Wickman, Associate Editor for the Chief Learning Officer magazine, states: “…we are are good at analyzing business situations and making decisions, but what we aren’t as good at is communicating with others.”
How do you know if your communication is breaking up? When what you say isn’t consistent with how you say it. For example, when someone tells you “I’m so excited to have this opportunity to work with you,” and they communicate this statement in a monotone and boring voice. Their facial expressions are lifeless. They never look you in the eye and they’re fidgeting with a pen. You’d question their credibility and knowledge, and not take action on what they have to say. To guarantee your message is heard so that you’re communicating with impact and influence, make sure you’re always following these five tips.
Um, what perception, like, do you create, you know, when you hear, um, your peer is using, uh, words that clutter, you know, their language? Knowledgeable, credible and confident probably don’t come to mind.
The number one challenge we need to overcome if we want to communicate with influence, is the ability to replace our non-words with a pause. We use non-words to buy ourselves time to think about what we want to say. These words become distracting and your peers and clients misinterpret your message. Instead, give them time to hear and understand your message.
Give yourself permission to think on your feet by replacing your non-words with pauses. Speak in shorter thoughts or sentences.
- Get to the point and avoid rambling.
- Hold your listener’s attention.
- Gain control over your message and how you communicate your message.
- Give your listener time to hear, understand and act on what you say.
2. Eye Connection
Last week when I met a new client to help him enhance his ability to influence others, I asked him; “What do you feel are your communication strengths?” He responded, “Eye contact.” As he responded his eyes were darting everywhere! Most individuals don’t lock their eyes with an individual long enough to create a relationship.
When you forget what to say, you will look at the ceiling, floor, your notes or anywhere away from your listeners. When you disconnect you’ll say “uh”, “um”, “so”, “and”, etc. You communicate to your listeners you don’t know what you’re saying and you jeopardize their trust in you.
When speaking to more than two individuals, connect with one individual for a complete sentence or thought. Only speak when you see your client’s eyes and pause when you look away to build trust.
3. Vocal Projection
If you want to be perceived as confident you must speak at a volume level to be heard. This applies to your work over the phone and face-to-face with clients.
On a scale from one to ten, with one being inaudible and ten too loud, when speaking to a group of fifteen or more your voice needs to be at a seven to eight. When speaking over the phone or to a small group, speak at a four to five level.
Vocal projection is the realization you need to use different volume levels so your voice reaches everyone in the room. No one should have to strain to hear you.
- Hold your listener’s attention.
- Bring out the importance of your message.
- Convey confidence.
Most individuals I work with fidget with their fingers, clothing, pen and the list goes on. If they don’t fidget then they unconsciously talk with their hands. There is also the individual who goes to the extreme. They’ve been told they talk with their hands so they hold their hands and do nothing.
Confident professionals use their gestures to add emphasis to their words. To gesture with purpose, expand your gestures from your sides and let your hands emphasize and describe your message.
Add variety to your gestures by relaxing your arms back to your sides after you complete a gesture. If you’re constantly using gestures you’re not able to think on your feet and you’re creating static.
- You’re the visual. When you use purposeful gestures, your listener will remember more of your message.
- Add emphasis to your message and grab attention.
- Add energy and inflection to your voice and channel your energy.
Ask for constructive feedback from friends, family and peers: “When I gesture do I look like I’m talking with my hands?” “Do I use gestures too often or not enough?”
5. Get to the Point
The more you say that’s unnecessary, the greater the risk your listener will either miss or misinterpret your point. What can help you get to the point?
- Stay focused. When you find yourself going down the path of saying too much and you begin to feel like a train about to derail, put the brakes on and get yourself back on track…PAUSE!
- Keep your objective in mind. Think in terms of what your listener needs to know about your topic.
- Focus your message on no more than the three most significant points. It’s easier for you to get to the point and for your listener to remember your message.
- Pay attention to your listener. Are they hanging on your every word or are they dazed? Are they attentive or fidgeting?
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About the Author
Stacey Hanke is founder of 1st Impression Consulting, Inc. and co-author of Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A to Z To Influence Others To Take Action. Her client list is vast from Coca-Cola, Kohl’s, United States Army, Navy and Air Force, Leo Burnett and the FDA. She has been featured with: SmartMoney magazine, Business Week, Chicago WGN and WLS-AM.
Visit Stacey at: www.1stimpressionconsulting.com.
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