Communication Skills

By Leo Gura - May 22, 2014 | 13 Comments

The 6 areas you must develop to become a master communicator.

Video Transcript

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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.

Being Assertive

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.

Communicating Clearly

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.

Listening Closely

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.

Wrap Up

This is Leo, I’m signing off. This is how to improve your communication skills. Go ahead and post me your comments down below. I’d love to hear what you think. If you like this video, go ahead and click the like button right now. Click the like button so that it gets shared and spread around.

Then come and check out Actualized.org. Sign up to my newsletter. My newsletter is free. I’m releasing new videos, new articles, other goodies every single week, for free, with all this kind of information.

This information about how to master your life, how to understand your psychology, how to get the mindsets and strategies you need, also some really powerful techniques for going out there and creating a passionate, exciting life where you’ve got big goals you’re actually accomplishing, that you’re actually feeling.

You’re seeing that the personal growth you’re going on yourself is taking shape in your own life. You’re seeing your money situation improve. You’re seeing your relationships improve. You’re seeing your work and career improve. I really want to get you passionate and engaged with life again.

That passion you might have had at one point, but then you lost, you forgot about, you got off track with — I want to put you back on track, and I want to keep you on track. The way I do that is through constant updates, every single week. Then you can baby-step your way up, to get that extraordinary life we know you want.

Go ahead and check that out.

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Comments
(13)
Ramam DSS says:

Hi,

I felt it is a good presentation on communication skills. The six key elements you mentioned are quite interesting. In addition, I also believe “trust” is an important factor in communication. If there is no trust, however had we try we will not be able to get across our message. Perhaps authenticity may help in building trust, but I guess ‘trust’ comes from trustworthiness which depends on number of factors including character and competence.

Leo Gura says:

Do you mean the speaker (you) trusting the audience? Or the speaker being trusted by the audience?

Ramam DSS says:

Audience must be able to trust the speaker. Speaker must build ‘rapport’ with the audience whether it is one or many. Then the receiver will be able to trust the speaker. (There are proven ways to build rapport and establish credibility.)

When the ‘trust’ is high we communicate easily, effortlessly and instantaneously. We can make mistakes and others will still capture our meaning.

But when the trust is low, communication is exhausting, time-consuming, ineffective and inordinately difficult.

Leo Gura says:

Yes, I agree. The best way to build trust is to walk your talk and be completely open and authentic.

Zhanna Kussainova says:

Hi Leo,

I was introduced to your web site recently. I was watching the secret video and your powerful statement of ‘what the secret didn’t tell you’, also the gestures on the video picture then I clicked on your video, watched it, loved it, and decided to check out your web site.
My first choice was ‘communication skills’, cause at that moment this was the reason of my frastration at work, which didn’t let me sleep, and when I decided to do smth about it (so I watched the secret
The video of communication skills made a big impact to me. So I followed your advice, and decided to practice my weaknesses (assertiveness and empathy)
The implementation of all 6 items, and focus mainly on weaknesses made a big impact on the same first day. OMG, you needed to see my excitement that day
It changed the actual results at my work. Some misleading decisions where not made because I was assertive when communicating with boss (which usually I would just say ‘yes boss’, as it’s kind of culture at my work place) there are a few more points, but I wouldn’t bother you too much
I’m very grateful for your gifts of sharing this info!
Thank you!

I signed up to the web site and sharing it with friends

P.S in the secret related video, you mentioned that you practice every morning ‘religiously’. Could you please specify?

Best regards,
Zhanna

Leo Gura says:

Hey Zhanna,

That’s great! Love to see people getting results! And thanks for sharing the videos with friends. That helps me a lot!

Check out my videos on Affirmations, and Visualization. Those will help you.

Naveen Malik says:

Hi Leo,
I would like to thank you for your continuous efforts to share your knowledge and make this world a better place everyday.
I really like all you videos as they are very simplistic yet provides excellent knowledge.

Thanks and May God bless you !!!

Regards
Naveen

taban says:

Gr8 video,could have expected.thank u

Michael says:

Very helpful, Thanks

me says:

Useful practical tips, thank you.
There are ‘Human factors’ which we try to alert the people in health industry about. When you give an instructions, the other person might perceive it in a different way. That is why we developed many tools now to ask the other person to repeat the instructions which we delivered to avoid misinterpretation which could compromise patient’s life secondary to lack of clarity or wrong perceiving of information.

Assertiveness is important in every thing in life otherwise no results achieved.

since I opened my mind I am less comfortable but more flexible.

Ahmed says:

I have an experience about “Open Mind Tip”:
We were a team working on a case study and we were discussing the possible decisions that we should make. One of the team said we must fire the marketing manager as he caused a great loss in market share for the company. I said, “Of course not. We will not fire the marketing manager because of one mistake.”
When the instructor discussed the case with us he said, “You should have fired the marketing manager.”
So I decided since then not to ignore anyone’s opinion even if it seems not realistic, we should discuss the opinion first.
Thank you for this amazing video.

Jargon is a Jargon itself. isn’t that ironic?

Mirror neurons aren’t alone responsible for empathy. Psychopaths have mirror neurons but they lack the experiences to interpreter its communication. The reason psychopaths can switch on and off their empathy it’s because they can imagine what that pain/sensation/situation feels like, but they lack the skill/practice/rehearsal/life experience to make the emotional connection. This has root in emotive deficiency, or rather any kind of demonstrative preparation, during the crucial first years of life when brain development occurs at a very fast rate, and all major foundations and links are built. This being the case, through the continuation of brain development, new bridge formations, of understanding, will form upon unsubstantial groundwork not qualifying the individual for empathy, only imitation.

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