Communication is more about listening than it is talking. Yet, we often end up performing monologues, rather than dialogues, when we communicate with others.
Why is that?
Well, most people haven’t taken a “primer” on effective communication. And, it’s “hard to know what you don’t know” if it's never been brought to your attention. Communicating—the exchange of information for the purpose of gaining an understanding—is best accomplished when the people involved are willing to give and take, listen and learn, and keep egos out of the equation.
Become a more effective communicator and prevent monologues by avoiding these 6 traps:
1. Not Understanding the Goal of the Communication. If you don’t know the purpose of the communication, then you’ve already set yourself up for failure. So, prior to the communication, take some time to prepare and focus on the outcome(s) you seek to achieve. If you do, you'll increase the likelihood of having a more productive exchange.
2. Failure to Establish Rapport. Establishing rapport sets the tone for all communication. If you don’t feel comfortable with whomever you are speaking, meaningful conversation is highly unlikely. The same obviously goes for anyone speaking with you. Rapport is a two-way street, so take some time to break the ice before getting down to business.
3. Monopolizing the Discussion. “Everyone gets a turn” is a common phrase uttered by pre-school and elementary school teachers alike. But, as adults we often forget. Submit to the natural ebb and flow of conversation. Be generous with the other person; there will be plenty of time to share your contributions. Even when you have a thought that feels like it is literally” burning” to get out—hold it—and wait until a more opportune moment presents itself.
4. Not Being an Active Listener. Are you really listening when someone else is speaking? Not many people are. If you haven’t learned anything new, then you probably aren’t really listening. If the other person isn’t actively engaged in the discussion, then neither are they. Instead of being a “conversational deadbeat”, practice focusing on the other person when they are speaking. Give good eye contact. Use facial expressions to indicate that you understand. Ask good follow up questions. And by all means, avoid distractions like other conversations, texting and surfing the Internet.
5. Failing to Ask Good Questions. Good questions elicit open-ended responses. You don’t learn much from “yes” and “no” responses. In order to gather useful information from any conversation, you need to first ask yourself, “What exactly do I want to know?” Then, ask questions that allow the other person to provide meaningful responses—with facts and other relevant information that are all geared towards learning more about them.
6. Failure to Properly Punctuate the Discussion. Punctuating a discussion is the final detail of effective communication. Make sure that you’ve gathered all the information needed in order to execute next steps. Ask yourself whether the ultimate goal of the communication was achieved. Was it transactional? Was the goal to deliver a heartfelt apology? How about communicating an important strategy to your client?
Whatever the goal is, check-in to make sure that you achieved it. Tweak your communication before closure to seal the deal. Provide documents, instructions on next steps, or the date of next communication. It may seem like a small detail, but in the grand scheme of things, it makes a world of a difference.
Becoming a more effective communicator won’t happen overnight, but with continued practice, it will happen.
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