Unless your long-term goal involves you sitting alone in a dark room entering data into a secret computer, or state-assisted solitary confinement, you’re going to need to communicate with others. In fact, in an ideal world, you won’t be simply offering information to others but will be involved in a meaningful interchange.
Communicating clearly and with the intent of being heard and understood is one of the most valuable skills that you can learn. It will serve you well in – quite literally – every aspect of your life, from social or personal to business and professional.
This may sound like a redundant point. After all, we all learn to speak by default and if are in university then surely, we’re doing pretty well.
Keys to communicating clearly
Have you ever spent time with someone, and you are left feeling confused or uncertain? Has a person become angry or hurt because they misunderstood what you said? Have you ever left a training course or a lecture with no clue on what you were supposed to take away from it?
This is the result of poor communication. Consider these three points:
Body language cues
If you are speaking to be understood, then it’s always sound advice to watch the person you are speaking to. Are they blinking rapidly while you speak? Are they frowning? Do their eyes tend to focus on a point somewhere above your head while you’re talking? Do they take deep breaths during the conversation?
These little non-verbal cues should be telling you to stop saying words, right there. Either speak slower or punctuate your diatribe with questions.
Questions are essential to clear communication, even though that may sound counter intuitive.
- Am I talking too fast?
- Do you have any questions on this before we move on?
- Have I missed anything out?
- Can you see how this fits in?
- Would you agree with that comment?
These and further open-ended questions will open the door for a more meaningful exchange, resulting in a positive result.
No matter who you’re speaking to – whether you’re explaining a principle to a young child or you’re selling your latest concept to a C-suite audience – tell a story.
As humans, we are captivated by storytelling with the ebb and flow of feelings, thoughts and experiences that are being described. We can grasp a concept without our brains trying to defend our ego (if it applies to us) and we are more likely to remember the overarching idea when told in the form of a story.
Yes, communicating clearly is both an art and a science which will be a valuable servant throughout your life.