I’ve just had a week in Sorrento in Italy finishing my latest book. Sarah and I were sitting having lunch when this northern gentleman approached our table and said “Excuse me have you got a travel lion?” As he had a really strong northern accent I didn’t understand what he had said, however, Sarah asked him what was a travel lion? He replied “It’s the same as a normal iron but smaller that you take travelling!” Sarah said “No sorry” and the guy moved onto the next table and asked the same question while Sarah and I looked on and realised what he had actually said.
The people on the next table (From Newcastle) said “Yes, what would you like ironed?” At which point we just burst out laughing at our inability to hear what was actually being said…
Now then, this got me to thinking where else is communication lost on the recipient and where could we make sure that what we are trying to communicate is clearly heard…
How many times have you said something to someone and they were offended, only for you to say “Sorry I didn’t mean that, I meant this!” A lot of disagreements come from miscommunication in one form or another.
I once heard someone say “I’m responsible for what I say, not for what you hear!” and I think a lot of people also believe the responsibility lays with the other person to understand what is being said, however, I believe that great communicators have a plan and make sure that the language they are using is the correct one for the person on the other end…
Here are six tips for top communication…
- Learn to ask great questions… Every question you ask should help you gather either facts or an opinion. Know which kind of information you need and frame your questions accordingly. Ask open questions, unlike simple yes-or-no questions, open-ended questions invite the respondent to talk and enable you to gather much more information. “What do you like best about this hotel?” is likely to generate more valuable information than “Do you like this hotel?” Another tactic is to ask a question in the declarative format, “Tell me about that.” People who won’t answer questions sometimes respond better to a direct order.
- Practice your attention paying skills… When others are speaking are you really listening? We often confuse ‘listening’ with ‘being quiet’ but just because you aren’t talking while others are talking does not mean you’re really listening. Learn to turn off your own internal dialogue and truly tune into what others are saying. It often helps to repeat what you’ve heard so that you know you’re paying attention and they know it too.
- Listen to understand… Steven Covey once said “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Often we are waiting for the gaps, or the breaks, or when we think the speaker has finished or had enough time, so that we can add our piece of communication. A lot of the time we break the sequence of discussion, or add content of little value, or just say the same thing again. We listen to respond. We build our own ideas, not necessarily creatively building on the ideas of others. Our behaviours are less supportive and more directive. We miss messages, and opportunities. We just fail to listen. Our agenda not theirs. It’s not about you; it’s about the other person.
- Be interested in what they have to say… One of the key aspects of effective communication is the ability to show genuine interest. What do I mean by genuine interest? I mean that not only do you act as though you care, but you really do care and listen to what people are saying. It is easier said than done. Especially when you just want to get the job done and you may not care about that person at all. If that is your case then face the sad truth: you are likely to be a poor communicator. Some people are more adept at this, they have more empathy and are more people oriented.
- Learn to paraphrase… Paraphrasing is repeating in your words what you interpreted someone else to be saying. Paraphrasing is powerful means to further the understanding of the other person and yourself, and can greatly increase the impact of another’s comments. It can translate comments so that even more people can understand them. Perhaps even reflect the answers back to demonstrate that you are listening in a positive and constructive way. Remember what you have been told! It can be useful to make notes after a meeting – their children’s names, hobbies, points of particular interest. Showing an interest in what someone thinks and feels helps to build a relationship with the person. By asking relevant questions it helps to reinforce that you have an interest in what the speaker has been saying.
- Remember their name… Dale Carnegie said “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language” Using a person’s name is crucial, especially when meeting those we don’t see very often. Respect and acceptance stem from simple acts such as remembering a person’s name and using it whenever appropriate. Take your time when you are introduced and make a conscious note of the name, my tip here is when you shake hands hold on for a fraction of a second longer and this will remind you to focus on their name.
So there you are, six communication skills for you to practice and if you do take action on what you have just read notice what a different result you get when someone asks you if you have a travel lion!
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