You're Talking? Are They Listening?

Last week, I was contacted by Webucator, an online learning company, "that's all about teaching essential skills and finding ways to help people improve themselves and become more successful."
I was asked to be a part of their recent  campaign, "Most Marketable Skill" and share what I think is essential for success. I'd like to commend the Class of 2014, and I hope you find this information helpful as you continue your journey in the next phase of your personal and professional lives.

When considering what is essential, what came to my mind immediately is Effective Communication. We speak, on a daily basis, to a number of individuals regarding a number of topics; there are times when we effectively get our message across and there are times we don't. What happens when we don't get our message across or it is not received? There is usually a breakdown in communication. Non-verbal cues, body language, tone and pitch, as well as belief in what you speak about determines how effective your ability is to communicate.

Personally, I have learned that non-verbal cues play a major role in what is being said and how it is received. Facial expressions, body language, hand gestures, etc can be the difference between "When you have a moment, may I speak to you, please?"( warm smile, hands folded in front of you) as opposed to, "We need to talk!" (hands on hip, or hands swaying).

As a former preschool teacher, I learned the importance of effective communication with young children. If you yell and scream at children, eventually they learn to tune out the yelling and screaming because they come to expect you to behave that way. However, when you speak to children in a tone that is assertive, yet warm, they listen to understand exactly what it is you expect of them at that particular moment.

The same is true of individuals in managerial and leader roles; how an individual speaks to their staff will determine the productivity of their organization. I remember working with an individual who would boast and say, "I'm only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand!" This statement could not be farther from the truth. The majority of communication involves understanding; thinking before you speak may be the difference in your message being received or blocked!

Here are a few questions to consider regarding Effective Communication:
Are you being clear when making a statement? Have you given thought to what you want to say, before saying it? Do you have all the information needed? Are you sending positive or negative messages? Are you listening to what the other individual has to say? Do you feel passionate about what you are speaking of?

Whether you're speaking in front of your classmates, reprimanding your children, speaking with your boss, participating in an interview, filing a complaint about bad customer service, or facilitating a meeting/workshop, you should always be mindful that the results you want (which are usually positive) cannot be attained without Effective Communication.

When you are passionate about what you speak of, it is clear and evident in your speech. When you are angry and looking for someone to direct your anger towards, it is clear and evident in your speech. When you are approachable and knowledgeable, it is clear and evident in your speech. When you are an excellent listener, you'll find yourself communicating with people from various backgrounds and walks of life. You will find yourself being patient and understanding with a goal of communicating instead of just "talking".

Take a moment now to reflect on an individual you recently heard speak in front of a crowd... what stood out most to you? Did you hear what they were saying? Were you intrigued? Were you engaged? Did they seem knowledgeable? Did they make you believe what they were saying? OR did they put you to sleep? Did they ramble? Was their body language slouchy? Did they seem passionate or just angry?

Now... ask yourself, "how do people walk away from a conversation or presentation from me?" Are they confused, perplexed, bewildered, put down, or are they informed, clear, knowledgeable, and respected?

I'd like to leave you with this thought:
"Speak when you are angry, and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret"~Laurence Peters

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