How many times have you ever found yourself in a conversation, ceremony, motivational speech, or any situation in which you had no idea what was being said because of the speaker’s inability to communicate effectively? Words are powerful and can make a person seem intelligent. But, on the opposite end of that spectrum can also make a person feel dumb. You have to be careful what words you use, how you use them, and who you use them with. When you are communicating to an audience, or even an individual, fancy words will lose their impact if misunderstood or misinterpreted. Even though you did not intentionally try to demean a person, it is possible that an awkward moment or situation could be created because of your ineffective communication skills, over use, or under use of words.
There have been many situations in which I have had to repeat myself, depending on my audience and the interpretation of what was said. I have no problem with repeating myself and will say things 3-5 different ways to get my point across if need to, depending if what I said was understood fully or not. However, there are many people that have the “I will not repeat myself” mentality. I would much rather repeat myself and ensure that everything was understood than to have an employee out there beating his/her head up trying to figure out the intent behind something that was said because of ineffective communications skills, or if I used the wrong words.
The following tips will help you communicate more proficiently and be better understood by any audience.
Listen – The most important thing you can do when communicating is to listen. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. Believe me, listening sends a louder message than any words you could ever say to anyone.
Keep it simple – Say what you have to say and nothing more. Don’t feel like you have to construct long, elaborate, drawn out, sentences to get your point across. This will only cause boredom and you will lose the attention of your audience.
Know your audience – A conversation will not have the same impact if you were talking to children, teens, young adults, professionals, amateurs, and so on…. It is imperative that you know your audience. You would not try to sell a magazine to a bunch of blind people or certainly try to play a beautiful piece of music to a deaf audience. So you need to know who it is that you are talking to first so that you don’t lose or confuse them.
Dictionary words – The use of big, fancy dictionary words does not impress anyone, so don’t use them. If anything, you will confuse your audience with what you really mean, especially if they don’t know what the words you are using mean. At the opposite end of that spectrum is the use of unnecessary words. Admit it, there are times you have been in a conversation in which you had no idea what the main point was because of overuse of words which caused the main point not to shine through all the additional verbiage.
Look at them directly – Talk directly to people, not at or away from them. It is very uncomfortable and causes tension if both people talking do not look at each other by looking away or “the 1000 yard stare conversation”. It creates a situation in which trust and genuineness is doubted.
Think before you speak – How often have you seen or heard someone talking and wondered “why is this guy talking”, or “there he/she goes again”? Let’s face it, there are going to be times in which we wish we could take back something that we said. But, if you happen to step on your own tongue and say something you either didn’t mean to or you mistakenly said the wrong thing, it is possible to recover from that mistake if you genuinely apologize and re-state what was supposed to be said in a respectful and professional manner.
Offensive versus defensive – Don’t be offensive when speaking. Crude, rude, and vulgar language makes you sound unintelligent, weak minded and it is disrespectful. Being defensive also makes you look weak or you are lying. If someone does not challenge you about what you are saying then there is no need to defend it. Say what you have to say and leave it at that.
Watch your tone – It’s not only important “what” you say, but “how” you say it as well. Your tone of voice and the way you say words can have a positive or negative impact. You will have your audience in the palm of your hand, running for the hills, ready to defend, or not listening to you at all depending on the tone of voice in which you are talking to them. If you speak in a clear, concise, professional, caring tone of voice you have your audience right where you want them. But, if you speak in a condescending tone of voice, as if you were talking down to your audience you will either have them on the defense or not listening to you at all. So, be careful “how” you talk to people as it could be disastrously misinterpreted.
Everyone loves a story –Tell your audience a story if you have a personal or professional experience that will describe what you are trying to say that gives a great example. By doing this, it makes what you are trying to say seem more “human” and people can relate to a story better, especially if there is something humorous in there that they have done too.
Avoid using slang – Slang words confuse people especially if they don’t know the meaning behind the word. This could cause an awkward or negative situation depending on the interpretation of the slang.
Body language says it all – You could be trying to say the most motivating, inspirational, uplifting thing in the world and your body language will cause what you are saying to lose its impact. If you are excited about something then don’t hesitate to get your entire body into the action and let it do some speaking as well. How often have you heard someone speak and they just stood there straight, rigid, almost scared and sounded extremely monotone. This would make for a boring conversation, wouldn’t it? If you are excited about what you are saying, you should move your entire body with every word you say. By doing this it will get others excited, keep them awake, and interested in what you are saying.