Health & Medical Self-Improvement

Good Communication Skills: Speak To Be Understood

You may think that you're speaking clearly and it's easy to follow what you're saying, but expressing yourself effectively isn't as easy as we sometimes assume. Like any skill, it can take some practice and thought. Follow some of the points below to make sure your listeners won't have difficulty understanding what you're saying.

1. Know what you're trying to communicate.
When your point is unclear, unfocused or just not obvious, you won't be understood. If you're out shopping with a friend and you need to eat before your blood sugar level goes haywire, don't tell her to please hurry up and choose which dress she's going to buy so you can get out of the store. Tell her that you need to eat. This way, she understands what you need to do and what she needs to decide (make her choice and buy the dress now or return to the store later for it) to assist you. The point you need to be clear about is that you have to eat, not that she has to choose which dress she wants.

2. Choose your timing with bad news.
Have you ever had to be the bearer of bad news? It doesn't have to be seriously bad news, just the bad news that's inconvenient or annoying, such as the-car-is-low-on-gas-and-there's-not-enough-to-get-to-work-so-your-spouse-will-have-to-take-a-taxi bad news.

Let's say that example, about the car being low on gas, is information you have to break to your spouse. Telling him right after he burned his toast and the dog didn't make it to the backyard in time may not be ideal. Wait a few minutes for him to get over these (or at least for him to get fresh bread in the toaster and clean the floor) before putting the next thing on him.

If someone is already in a bad mood and your news will make it worse, perhaps you can tell him later on in the day or wait until tomorrow. Obviously, if it's urgent you have to say something right away but if it can wait, let it. Tell him another time when he's feeling better and less likely to get really upset.

3. Stay away from too much detail and irrelevant information.
Remember how Edith Bunker told stories? She'd start by telling Archie that she knows when the bus leaves the station because her cousin Ricky missed it back in 1964. Instead of focusing on the information, she'd spend most of her monologue telling poor Archie about which side of the family Ricky was from, who he married, how many kids he has, blah, blah, blah, rather than telling Archie that he has 10 minutes to make it to the depot, which was the point of the conversation.

Sometimes we add a lot of detail because we think we've got to give all the information whether it's relevant or not. But too much is just as unhelpful as not enough. Minute details are rarely necessary so keep the content relevant to the story.

If the day of the week doesn't matter to the point that you're making you don't have to sidetrack yourself by trying to remember if it happened on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, "Last Tuesday, I think it was was in the afternoon so it must have been Tuesday...anyway we went to, no, it was Wednesday because..." Leave out the trivial information or you'll lose the listener on the slow boat to your point.

4. Use understandable vocabulary.
If you're discussing something that you know a lot about and the other person doesn't, stick with vocabulary he can understand. Avoid jargon and technological gobbledygook.

You know what it's like listening to a tenager? "thats so awshum - dark on. im just jamin. da party iz gonna b live." ... huh??... That's what it's like to listen to someone use words you're not familiar with. If you want others to understand you, use words they know.

5. Enunciate your words
Avoid mumbling and muttering when you're speaking. Even if your message is clear, concise and you're using easy-to-understand vocabulary, no one can understand what you're saying if you're mumbling.

6. Volume of your voice
Don't speak at a volume that can only be heard by a dog and don't turn your face so your voice is being projected 180 degrees away from the listener. When you're speaking, let them hear your dulcet tones comfortably instead of making them strain to hear.

If you want to be understood, speak in ways that ensures you are. Don't make listeners work to understand you. Make it as easy on them as you possibly can and they'll hang on your every word.

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