Do you remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Turns out that’s not quite right. Words have the power to hurt or to heal; they have the ability to open people’s eyes and help them to see something that they’ve never seen before, or to shut their eyes to the world around them. Words are VERY powerful.
Your communication skills impact not only your personal relationships, but your business relationships as well. Your language – the words you choose – is the tool that you use to take an experience and translate into something that can be shared with others. It’s the bridge linking one person to another, one idea to another, one concept to another. Language can carry you across the chasm from not knowing to knowing; language can help you to transport others across that chasm, too.
Communication is THE major skill to learn in your life because it impacts everything else that you do. Your ability to communicate determines your income, your relationships, and ultimately, your future.
Improving your communication skills is a lifelong process. Here are 4 tips to help you:
1. Have Something Good To Say
As your move from day to day, make note of your experiences: what you do, what you see, what you learn. Make a deliberate, consistent effort to add this knowledge and information to the wealth of experience that you carry in your head; do it on a daily basis. Preparation is key to good communication skills, and by taking note and “filing” your knowledge and experience away, you’ll always have something good to say.
How do you know what to store? Be interested! Rekindle your childlike curiosity in life, people religions, ceremonies, countries and life styles. Make your own observations and jot them down in a notebook or journal. Be curious about how things work, what makes things and people “tick.” Learn to feel what the other person feels with sympathy, empathy and compassion. You may not always succeed, but try – people know when you’re trying and they appreciate the effort. And finally, focus on what you know.
Life is a journey of continuing education. Keep doing your research and put it all into your journal where you’ll have it to draw from when you need it.
2. Say It Well
Be sincere in your message. You’ll say it best by practicing what you want to say. Repetition will help you to hone your communication skills, as will learning to say it in fewer words. Listen to what you’re saying and cut out what’s not absolutely necessary. Be a student of other speakers. When you meet someone whose message moves you, note what it was about their delivery that made the impact and borrow from them. As you practice these skills, you’ll begin to develop your own style: gestures, voice inflection, and even how you emphasize a point will become the trademarks of your personal communication style.
Working on your vocabulary should be a life-long endeavor. Language is the tool that we use to reach others; it helps us to understand and to be understood. Having a limited vocabulary is like looking at life through a small peephole. Broaden your vocabulary and you’ll broaden your vista at the same time! Buy a good dictionary and use it!
And don’t forget the feet! My mother used to say “Listen to the words, but watch the feet.” She meant that words only go so far; if the actions don’t back up the words, there’s cause for mistrust. All words and no action, or all action and no words…neither one works very well. Strive for balance between words and action. If you’re giving a gift, make sure that your words accompany it; write them down: “You are my sunshine!” Your words will last longer than the gift will, and in some cases, may actually BE the gift!
3. Read Your Audience
Whether you’re speaking to one or 1,000, you’ve got to pay attention to how you’re being received. Your audience will send you signals through their body language and gestures to let you know how well you’re communicating with them. Are they for you or against you? Is it time to change the subject? Should you say it again? Make them laugh? Read those signals and make adjustments as necessary, and remember: repetition is key to mastery. Do it over and over again and you’ll continue to improve.
Words that are loaded with emotion are powerful…so powerful that they have the ability to lift up and inspire, or to mercilessly crush. Words have the ability to touch the heart – to burrow in and live there, so you must be careful to use the emotional power of your words wisely. Balance – just enough emotion…not too much, not too little – and well chosen words will help you to get your message across in the manner in which you intend.
By practicing these 4 Tips you’ll hone your communication skills to a fine edge and learn not to simply communicate, but to use your words to work miracles!