Do you desire to improve communication? Have you ever been misunderstood or came across as too blunt or rude? Do you feel like what you are are telling your employees or family members is not sinking in? Have you struggled to communicate your viewpoints to a client, supervisor, or employee?
Have you ever heard the quote that people won’t buy from you or listen to you until they know how much you care? To be honest, this quote does me no good. I can care a lot about something and about the people involved and they still not know how much I care. There has to be something else. Is it about being persuasive or having a magnetic personality? I have read quite a bit on communication. “Improve communication” has probably been on every annual review that I had when I was in the Corporate world.
If we aren’t communicating, then how much good are we doing at making a difference? How are we going to be good leaders, parents, and business owners? Communication is extremely important. Without communication, we are at risk of not accomplishing as much as we desire.
If you have read any of my other blog posts, you know I like to come up with 5 ideas. This is no different. What are 5 practical ways to improve communication?
1. Join Toastmasters
You may have heard that Toastmasters is all about learning to speak in public, but it is much more than this. For about $100 a year, you learn about speaking and communicating with people in all settings. I joined a Toastmaster group in Keller, Texas in January this year and have found it to be an organization of very friendly and knowledgeable volunteers. This organization helps with leadership skills such as listening, critical thinking, giving feedback, time management, planning, facilitation, motivation, mentoring, and team building. I can’t think of a better training course for the price with a better track record in improving one’s communication and leadership skills. The stories I have heard of the changes in people’s lives are quite exciting. I should write another post about that.
2. Encourage 3 people a day
I must admit that this is kind of challenging because it is a change in mindset. I can’t say I do this as well as I would like but it does help with communication? In order to encourage someone, you have to think unselfishly. The person receiving the encouragement will most likely be receptive more to what you have to say. I am not recommending the sandwich method of saying some nice, not so nice, and the end with with an encouragement. It kind of feels like manipulation. In Zig Ziglar’s classic book “See You At the Top”, he talks about a universal truth that “you treat people exactly the way you see them. If you find the “good qualities” in a person, he/she starts to perform better. My thought is that the person will actually start listening more and communication will improve.
3. Pray for wisdom
I realize not everyone reading this may see the importance of prayer in your life. My personal world view is that God created everything in the universe and that he desires a relationship with us. Through Jesus Christ, we can pray and have communication with a complete omnipotent and omniscient God. This kind of wisdom is very effective in communication. There have been many times that I have prayed before making a phone call or sending an email. Why not?
4. Over communicate
In Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Advantage“, he stresses the importance of clarity in communication. He stresses 4 disciplines to any organization.
- Build a Cohesive Leadership Team
- Create Clarity
- Over communicate Clarity
- Reinforce Clarity
I sort of find it humorous that 3 of the 4 disciplines stress communication, clarity, more communication. It is clear to me that you really can’t over communicate your thoughts and ideas in any organization (business, church, or family).
5. Seek to understand before being understood
The best way to communicate is to try to understand the other person’s perspective. Try to be empathetic and view life from their perspective. I can say this can be challenging since we inherently tend to view everything from our perspective. I think that people do perceive that you are trying. Ask questions and let them talk more than you to understand their opinions. This is for me just as much as anyone. A great book is Stephen Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“. The 5th habit is to seek to understand before being understood.
The hardest part of communication is that so much of it comes through in our tone and nonverbal communication. I am sure I will be working on this for the rest of my life. I went to a Toastmaster’s officer training today and found it interesting how many people have been in the organization for many years or possibly decades. The organization has been around for 100 years so obviously communication was an issue back then and will mostly be very important many years to come. If we strive to encourage others, pray for wisdom, over communicate, and seek to understand, then our communication with others will improve. It is a skill that takes continual practice, and it may be one of the most important skills we ever develop.
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