13 August 2018
‘Effective communication is a skill that you can learn and, by doing so, you can improve every part of your life.’
Our use of language is natural; a normal function of our daily life. Yet, it is something that can cause us so many problems, or generate vast advantages, benefits and rewards. Our skills and abilities in our use of language evolves during our development, education and experiences. We use our language to teach, to persuade, to argue and to inform, to name but a few applications. Yet, rarely do we learn how to target our actual words, for maximum and accurate effect. Your words, combined with the way you express them, can have a significant impact on how you and your message are received. People very quickly make a judgement about you and react to what you say, in response to the words you use.
Your language skills are a key part of your communication approach and how you influence how people react to you. Not only does your language reflect your own emotions and moods, it influences the emotions and moods of others. Whether you intended to create an attitude of compliance or defiance, or a mood of contention, or contentment, your use of language will be a key component. Is it beyond your control? Not at all. You really CAN influence this! Your use of language creates meaning, which creates thinking, which creates attitude, which creates your experience of life!
Just for a moment, imagine what life would be like if you could enhance your communication effectiveness in work and social situations. What would it be like if you could walk into your workplace and instead of indifference, your colleagues light up with pleasure, as they enjoy being with you? How would you like your children (or that ‘challenging’ relative) to do what you ask them to do? Happily, without even a thought of arguing? Would that be good?
Before considering what and how to enhance your skills, it is useful to understand what you already know. How do you deliver your thoughts and opinions when you communicate with others? Are you careful with your words and vocabulary, or are you careless with your choice of language? What attention do you give to the actual words you say and the message they give, whether positive, negative, helpful, or unhelpful? Do you keep all of your focus on the problem, or present the listener with a solution? Do you speak kindly, positively to yourself? Or are you routinely telling yourself off, highlighting your limitations (‘I’m so forgetful’) or telling yourself what you cannot do (‘I can never do well in exams’).
When you understand where your communication is at present, you can begin to consider how you can move forward from here. As part of your assessment process, you might consider which qualities of an effective communicator you have and how they could be developed. Are you confident? Charismatic? Assertive? What communication skills do you have and what else would help? Are you good at giving or receiving feedback? How about at asking or answering questions? Are you aware of any barriers to communication? Do you comprehend the technical aspects to your language? How good are you at using your voice to maximum effect? What about your non-verbal communication? How is your technical knowledge for how the mind works? Understanding the ‘Laws of Suggestion and Rules of the Mind’ can help you focus your communication in ways that work with the mind, rather than against it. It can also be helpful to appreciate how the mind can misunderstand what is being communicated. Many people have slightly (or more) distorted thinking about some aspects of our lives. Knowing more about ‘Cognitive distortions’ can help you better understand what people are saying to you, as well as have an awareness of the ways in which people might filter what you are saying. Being able to direct your language in a way that really enhances comprehension can become an unconscious skill and ability. For many, there is a learning and development process to go through to achieve this.
In the same way that we may not have had formal training in our use of language, many people are not taught how to use their voice to enhance their communication. So many different aspects of ‘the voice’ can be enhanced to support what you are saying, rather than perhaps work against it. For example, your inflection at the end of a sentence can have a direct effect on how your words are received. Consider the simple phrase, “enjoy reading the book”. If you were to say it with an upward inflection at the end of the sentence, it becomes a question – say it out loud (or silently to yourself) now to notice this for yourself. If you say it with an even inflection (no change in direction), it becomes a statement. For more impact, you might say it with a downward inflection at the end. Then, “enjoy reading the book” becomes a command. For each of those three sentences, those same words will have been received differently.
We often think of communication as something we say, or hear, yet even before words are spoken, the communication process has started. Without ever deliberately or consciously making an effort to learn ‘non-verbal’ communication, our ability to read ‘body language’ starts to develop even before we start to understand spoken language. If you took yourself to a country where you didn’t understand the language, you are still likely to be able to interpret a fair amount of ‘unspoken’ communication, even considering cultural variations. Is our ability to read body language something we can enhance? Absolutely! We can learn the technical aspects and have a ‘knowing’ understanding. Although, nothing beats practice, taking that ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’. There are many great ways to practice your body language reading skills. It can be good to read up on body language cues. Then, record a ‘real-life’ television programme, such as a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary. It needs to be real-life as drama programmes are acted so the body language isn’t always as accurate. Now, watch a segment (or all of it) without any sound and notice what you can observe. Now, play it back again and this time watch it was well. Did your initial observations reflect what is being said?
Rather than there being one ‘communicate more effectively’ tool, your communication can be enhanced in many different areas. There is no single ‘right’ way to communicate. However, having and using a broad range of skills, that you have developed with focused practice, can enable you to communicate more effectively in a wide range of social and professional environments.
Learn to communicate more effectively
My new book ‘How to Communicate More Effectively’ will give you a great insight about where your communication currently is and how you might improve it, whether for social, work or home communications.
It’s available to buy now on Amazon. Click here to get your copy today.
We hope that this blog on how to communicate more effectively has been helpful to you. If you have any more questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks