Communication is a two-way street. But sometimes it can feel like you’re working really hard and people are still not listening. Frustrating, right? This could be for a whole host of reasons: from your ideas not being clear to them, to your delivery being unengaging or the fact that they skipped breakfast this morning! The good news is that there are ways to really make sure you’re holding up your end of the bargain. (Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do if it’s the fault of their empty stomach!).
Here are three tips:
Lead by example - be the listener you want to speak to
We’ve all spoken to someone who is constantly looking over their shoulder or checking their phone… how do you feel when it’s their turn to speak? Personally, I really don’t want to give them much! Becoming a better listener yourself will really help you build rapport, in turn making people eager to listen to you.
Check in on your Active Listening. This term refers to all the nonverbal things that show someone you are interested…eye contact, smiles, open body language, small encouraging words or sounds. All of these will give the speaker confidence and spur them on as they show that you’re with them and present within the conversation. Be especially aware of what your eyes and facial expression are saying - at times I have been told that when I am deeply listening my face can be interpreted as ‘I disagree’ or ‘I don’t get it’ even though that is really not the case! Next time you’re speaking, try and notice what the listener(s) are giving you non-verbally. How does it make you feel?
Add value to your content
‘But my work is actually quite boring!’ is something that I have heard again and again with clients who struggle with making engaging presentations. I believe that even with the most perfunctory of information, there is always a way to get the listener leaning in.
Try thinking about the values behind what you are saying and use them.
For example, imagine I am going to present to you how to bake a cake step-by-step. This presentation is about getting information across and I could start at preheating the oven and end at icing the cake. It would inform you but it would be pretty boring.
So, hang on. Why do I love baking? What values in me does it appeal to?
It is because it brings people together. It is about sharing. I believe it can bring happiness.
Now when I tell you the steps to bake my special chocolate cake, I will first tell you about how I baked it for my friend Heather’s surprise 30th birthday. That she was so surprised when she saw it that she joined in the singing and looked around for whose birthday it was. And later about finding the bar staff taking a cheeky slice and overhearing them enjoying it. I am highlighting my values without explicitly stating them and using personal, specific examples. The information will still come across but it will have context.
Practise, practise, practise!
This might make me sound like a school music tutor but communication really is a skill that can be practised and improved upon. Think about it, you wouldn’t want to listen to a violinist who has never practised, would you? And you can practise on your own. Try to develop a habit of practising regularly and especially for important communication situations.
There are all sorts of ways you can practise but give this exercise a go to work on having clarity for your listener:
- Find a newspaper article. Record yourself reading it aloud and really try to make the story clear to the listener. Listen back (without reading the words at the same time). Think about any moments that you got lost. Try again and make them clearer (perhaps emphasise the important words and slow your pace slightly).
- To develop your skills of speaking without a text…Hide the newspaper article and record yourself telling the main points of the story in your own words. You could use a few bullet points as prompts but try to keep the clarity and control you had with the text. Listen back. Put yourself in the shoes of the listener and think about what they need more of. It might be energy, pace or really making the most important things stand out. Try again.
Above all, find a way of practising that you enjoy. Communication can really be joyous. And with practice, it will be all the more joyous for your listener too.
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