By Leo Gura - May 22, 2014 | 13 Comments
The 6 areas you must develop to become a master communicator.
Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org, and in this video I’m going to talk about communication skills.
Let’s talk a little bit about communication skills and what it really takes to improve your communication skills, how you become a good communicator. Before we go into that — and I’m going to give you six key points you need to follow to become a very effective and lethal communicator — let’s talk a little bit about why this is even important, why this is something you should be concerned about.
Communications skills are something I see ruining people’s lives. If you lack communication skills, you’re going to have a problem in your intimate relationships. If you lack communication skills, you’re going to have a problem at your job, at your work.
If you lack communication skills, you’re going to have a problem managing employees, or running a business if you do that — working with clients, that’s something that’s really big I found communication skills are important in.
The Importance Of Communication
Overall, in life, having solid communication skills is important to make your life smooth. Little things will work better for you when you have good communication skills. Even something as simple as placing an order at the restaurant, placing a clear order and doing it in a way where you get what you want from the waitress, and getting your way in life — this is much easier when you have solid communication skills, rather than when you’re unclear, mumbly, not sure what you want, you’re not assertive and you have all these other problems.
Let’s go into that and talk about it. Communication skills are something you want to work on, because this is something that’s going to last for your whole life. As your life goes on, you’re going to run into people, you’re going to have problems communicating. You’re going to have problems writing.
You’re even going to have challenges with marketing yourself, whether you’re selling yourself in a resume format, where you’re pitching yourself to your new employer, trying to get a new job, or you’re selling some sort of business proposal that you’ve got, or maybe a product or a service you created that you really want to be successful, and that’s important to your purpose in life.
To do all those things effectively, you need to be able to communicate effectively. Let’s talk about that. What does it really take to become a good communicator. I would say there are six pillars, at least for me, that I sat down and thought about “OK, what are the essential components?”
Here they are. I’m going to list them off, and then we’re going to go into each one in some detail, and you’re going to get some clarity around that. Then you can go and work on whichever of these six you are deficient the most in. It’s like looking at your sticking points. Where are your communication skills sticking points?
Here are the six. Number one is assertiveness. Number two is authenticity. Number three is open mindedness. Number four is empathy. Number five is clarity. Number six is listening. Those are the six. Let’s go and talk a little bit about each one.
First of all, assertiveness. Being a communicator, and the reason you’re communicating anything at all, is because you usually want something to happen because of your words, or however you’re communicating. You can communicate not just using words — you can communicate using body language, imagery and other things.
Ultimately, you’re trying to convey some sort of message, have some sort of impact. A lot of people will communicate things, but then they don’t get what they actually want with the communication, because their communication is not assertive. They’re not really pushing for their own agenda. They’re not sticking to their guns.
Then they end up not getting what they want. Maybe this is happening to you in a relationship. Maybe this is happening to you in a debate. Maybe it’s happening to you in an office meeting, or somewhere else in your life. You have to be assertive. That means you can’t be a doormat. You can’t just let other people impose your agenda upon you.
Your communication has to be such that people perceive it as serious. That way they take your words and your language seriously. They take your intentions and ideas seriously. This is something that’s very important. You have to know how to be confident in your delivery. Not just that, but also be insistent and persistent.
I know people, friends of mine, who are really good at this. Personally, I’ve struggled with assertiveness myself. I was always kind of meek in the way I would interact with people. I still am to a certain degree. I’ve worked on it a lot, but this kind of meekness really holds you back. A lot of times you’ll want something simple, and you won’t be able to get it simply because you give up before your message has been delivered.
Sometimes your message has to be repeated persistently, until you get what you want. It can be just a simple thing. Maybe you go to a hotel, and they don’t have your room. For some reason, they sold your room to somebody else. Now you need a room for the night. What can you do?
You can just accept it as it is, maybe ask them about why they screwed up your reservation and accept it, or you can be assertive, you can be persistent. You can get the manager to come out. You can get his manager to come out. You can pummel away at the problem until maybe something clicks and something happens.
You’d be surprised at how often something like that, where you’re being assertive and some sort of spontaneous solution presents itself. Whereas if you were meek, then you would’ve just been hit. You would’ve taken that hit. You wouldn’t have, ultimately, gotten what you wanted out of the situation. Assertiveness is important.
Being True To Yourself
The next point is authenticity. Authenticity is critical. Authenticity is about being true to yourself. How often are you true to yourself in your communication? What most people do is hold back. They want to be polite. They want to be courteous. They don’t want to offend somebody. They’ll do anything to make the verbal transaction go well, the communication go well.
They won’t really worry about whether they’re being honest and true to themselves, whether their own values are being honoured here, in this situation. To do that, you have to know what your authentic self actually is. You have to be clear about your own values. You have to know what your own agenda is, and what you want out of life, and what is true and what is not for you.
You have to know where the boundaries are. Then you have to have the courage to go out there and fight for that. Being authentic, that’s not something that comes spontaneously to most people. For most people, that takes effort and work. We’ve all been taught and conditioned to be polite and to put this big smile on our face.
That can be fine in some situations, and that will hold certain situations over, but in the long run it doesn’t work. In the long run, people see that. They can see right through your inauthenticity. When you’re communicating with someone who’s inauthentic, you can clearly feel it off that person.
His message and his ideas get diluted. They don’t have the power they want to have. Not only that, but the person who’s doing that communication, who’s being inauthentic, is ultimately unfulfilled with him or herself. That’s why authenticity is critical.
Opening Your Mind
Number three is open mindedness. You have to be open minded when you’re interacting with other people. Open mindedness means you’re willing to consider other perspectives, alternative scenarios and ideas. Don’t close your mind off to alternate points of view. You will be coming into contact with many people in your life.
Their points of view might be different than your own. A lot of times, our gut reaction is to just say “No, that’s not something I’m interested in. That’s not something I want. That’s clearly wrong. That’s awful.” You judge and you criticize, and you draw a wall between yourself and the other person or his ideas.
When that happens, and there’s that wall between you two, no effective communication can happen. If all you’re doing is just being very insistent on your own points of view, being very dogmatic and grounded on that, but you’re not willing to consider other perspectives, other people are not going to want to communicate with you.
You’re going to be a very stubborn person, and people will label you as such, and then they’ll try to avoid you. Who wants to be in that kind of environment? Who wants to communicate with someone like that? People want to communicate with somebody who’s willing to listen to them, to consider their ideas not just in a superficial way, but honestly.
There should always be a chance for that other person to convince you of their ideas. If someone is talking to you, even if you don’t like what they’re saying, you can still stay there and listen, and entertain an idea just because you’re intelligent. You’re willing to entertain various ideas that are not necessarily your own.
That doesn’t mean you have to adopt them, but you can entertain them. You can play around with them. Then once in a while, you actually do adopt one. It’s something that’s very critical and important to your own personal development, because if you’re not taking on this kind of open, receptive mindset, that means you’re stuck in your own place.
You’re stuck in your own beliefs and ideas. Not only is that going to create communication problems, it’s going to limit your growth as a human being. Ultimately, you’re hurting yourself by doing that. Open mindedness is very important.
Feeling For Others
The fourth point is empathy. Empathy is very important for communication. In fact, human beings, we have — this has been studied by neuroscientists — what we call mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are specialised neurons in the brain. They allow us to have empathy with other human beings and even other creatures.
For example, we can see someone, like a friend of ours or a spouse, walking across the room and stubbing her toe on the coffee table. She stubs her toe on the coffee table, and when I look at that, I wince. I see the pain in her face. I see her grabbing her toe. I’m wincing because I feel the pain in my own brain.
Those are my mirror neurons firing off. What the mirror neurons allow us to do is experience the emotions we would’ve experienced if we were in that situation. But we’re not. When I’m seeing someone stub their toe on the coffee table, I’m not in that situation, but I’m seeing it and imagining it, and now actually feeling the pain of it a little bit. Not as much, but a little bit.
That’s what makes my face scrunch up and wince. Those are the mirror neurons happening. That’s empathy. Why is empathy important for communication? The other person wants to feel like they’re being heard and understood. Empathy creates a common ground.
When you can empathise with the person you’re communicating with, that person will feel like “Oh, OK, he gets me. She understands where I’m coming from. She’s just like me. We have common ground. Let’s communicate. Let’s see where this goes.” It creates this cooperative dynamic.
Whereas if you have no empathy for the other person, and you don’t understand their emotions, you can’t relate to their emotions, they will sense that off of you and they will think “This guy, he doesn’t know anything about me. He doesn’t know my problems and challenges. How can I listen to him? His message is not going to resonate with me, because he has very different experiences. There’s this gulf of separation.”
If you’ve noticed, in a lot of my videos I talk about a lot of the problems that you have. When I start off a video, I start talking about a problem. I talk about the emotions of it, because I want to build empathy. I don’t just do that like a curtsy favour with you — I do that because, a lot of times, I’ve come and experienced that negative places I’m talking about.
If we’re talking about some sort of negative emotion, or some sort of negative situation in life you’re trying to fix, I’ve had those situations in my life. Now I can use those and build common ground between us, so that you’ll be more receptive of what I’m saying.
Empathy is going to get you a very long way in your communication skills, especially in intimate relationships. Empathy is very important.
The next point, point number five, is clarity. Communication needs to be clear. There’s an old idea — I don’t remember where I got this from, but I think it’s a classic idea — that communication is not what you meant to say, but it’s what the other person received.
A lot of times we’ll think we said something, and the other person will hear our words, hear our message and then do something else or believe something else, other than what we intended. Here, by this more rigorous standard of judging our communication, what we really want to say is whatever the other person hears or understands. That’s what’s really communicated, not what we intended.
Clarity is all about getting your intention in line with what the other person actually perceives. The best type of communication is extremely clear. It’s accurate. It’s easy for other people to understand what is being meant. It’s not loosy-goosy and nebulous, and too abstract, which allows for many types of interpretation.
Clarity is very important because if you’re not clear in your communication, then what you’re communicating will get misinterpreted. Then people will start doing things you didn’t really intend them to do. They’ll start believing that you believe things that you didn’t actually believe.
This can create problems in your business. This can create problems when you’re giving instructions to people. This can create problems with simple things. You call your kids on the phone and tell them to do something very specific, and you don’t say it clearly, in the right way, then they won’t do it. They’ll do what they want to do.
Clarity is something you need to work on. If you have problems where people are misperceiving what you’re telling them, then maybe it’s not them but you, and the way you’re communicating. You’re not articulating yourself accurately.
The last point, point number six, is listening. Communication, just talking, it doesn’t really work unless you also hear back. As I said before, people want to feel like they’re being listened to. They don’t want to just be talked at. They have to be listened to.
Listening is not just about opening your ears. A lot of times it’s as simple as opening your ears, but you also have to let the other person know that you’re listening to them, and they were heard. For example, being an active listener. What that means is nodding your head, when you’re standing there and listening to somebody. Nodding your head so that they’re registering it.
Saying “Mhm” once in a while. “Mhm. I see. Okay. Interesting point.” Making little comments like that. Asking questions, clarifying questions about what was said so the person feels like you’re actually listening, that you’re engaged and want to know more. Those are very critical when you’re sitting down face to face with somebody.
Especially when the stakes are high, when the issue’s big. You need to let the other person know you’re actually listening to them and hearing them. You have to actually want to do that.
If these are the six pillars, now you have to ask yourself, if you have trouble with communication skills and you want to improve, which one of these six are the one or two that are really holding you back, that are causing you the most friction in your communications? Is it assertiveness, authenticity, lack of open mindedness, lack of empathy, lack of clarity or lack of listening?
Pick one or two of those, and then say “OK, I want to improve that. I want to work on that. I’m going to devote the next thirty or sixty or ninety days really focusing on that and looking for ways I can improve.” Let’s say you want to improve your clarity.
“I’m going to look at ways I can improve my clarity. How can I write more clear emails? How can I give more clear presentations at work? What does that mean? Do I have to study? Do I have to read some books? Do I have to take some notes? Do I have to spend more time preparing for my presentation?
Do I have to get feedback from my boss in a way I haven’t been getting before? Do I have to learn some new vocabulary? Maybe I have to simplify my vocabulary, instead of being all high falluting and trying to be sophisticated. Maybe I should just boil my vocabulary down to something very simple so people can actually understand what I’m saying, rather than trying to impress them with my big use of fancy words.”
That would be a way you could work on clarity. You could do this for all the other ones. Then practice — practice at work, practice in your intimate relationship, practice at simple places. When you’re going out and ordering a coffee at Starbucks, practice there as you’re chatting with the cashier.
You can practice all these things all the time throughout your life, and the more you interact with people, the better you get at this. I think it’s important to put your attention on it, because a lot of people will just assume that communication is something that just comes naturally.
If you’re in any kind of professional setting, then you know it takes actual work and practice to get really good at communication. You can join organisations — Toastmasters — and maybe volunteer to do more types of public speaking, other types of things at your job, in order to become a better communicator.
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