By July 11, 2010 Read More →

Top 10 Lessons in Improving Communication

Top 10 Lessons in Improving Communication“ They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buechner

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Eduard Ezeanu.  Eduard blogs at People Skills Decoded and is a communication’s coach with an attitude-based approach.  Here’s Eduard on his top 10 lessons learned in improving communication.

When I was a teenager, I became interested at one point in consciously improving my communication skills, and joined the debate club in my high-school. I quickly realized the extraordinary results that good communication skills can help you achieve, and I got addicted. Soon after, I also started helping others put their best foot forward in communication.

Now, over a decade later, there are certain key lessons about effective communication which have become crystal clear in my mind. I see them manifest in every interaction between two human beings. Here are the top 10 of these lessons:

  • Lesson #1: Communication is Like a Muscle.
  • Lesson #2: You’re Overrating Your Communication Skills.
  • Lesson #3: Good Communication Can Compensate Bad Communication.
  • Lesson #4: Talk to the Point.
  • Lesson #5. Be Clear.
  • Lesson #6: Ask!
  • Lesson #7: Be Yourself.
  • Lesson #8: Listen Instead of Assuming.
  • Lesson #9: Don’t Argue for the Sake of Arguing.
  • Lesson #10. Smile!

Lesson #1. Communication is Like a Muscle.
The more you use it, the more it develops. This doesn’t mean that just by communicating you automatically improve your communication skills every time; applying certain principles and seeking to improve is also important. But the basics are in actually practicing, in interacting with people as much as you can.

Lesson #2: You’re Overrating Your Communication Skills.
There are two things which happen a lot in relation with communication: one is that almost everybody agrees that most people need to improve their communication skills, the other is that almost nobody believes they have this problem. It’s very possible that your communication skills need work, and it’s best to take this into account.

Lesson #3: Good Communication Can Compensate Bad Communication.
If you deal with people with bad communication skills, the situation is not hopeless. To a great extent, you can still get the kind of results you want, if you have good enough communication skills to balance things out. Just focus on your side of things.

Lesson #4: Talk to the Point.
Probably the most common mistake in communication is losing the attention of the people you’re talking to, because you’ve stopped saying something relevant for them. Always keep your target in mind and adapt the content of your communication so it’s relevant for whoever you are talking with.

Lesson #5. Be Clear.
General, fuzzy words don’t have much practical use in communication. They’re mostly a way of talking without saying much. Focus on using very specific and precise words when you talk, in order to present your thoughts in as a precise manner as you can. This improves your chance to be understood and to be convincing when you interact with others.

Lesson #6. Ask!
I can’t even begin to describe how much most people sabotage themselves in communication by not asking clearly for the things they want. We tend to avoid expressing our own needs or wants, or we fail to express them clearly.  Instead, we hope that someone will simply address our needs and wants the way we want. This is a terrible strategy. If you want something, ask for it clearly. That’s what confident and effective people do.

Lesson #7: Be Yourself.
Communication can be used as a way to create a false impression about yourself. And this has some benefits but overall, it is just another bad strategy in relating with others. Instead, use communication as a way to express your true self, without regrets and without excuses. Authentic communication is the way to build great partnerships and overall, and to get the best results.

Lesson #8: Listen Instead of Assuming.
We will often stop listening to what a person has to say when her words seem familiar and we think we know what else she has to say. But we often jump to the wrong conclusions, and we end up misunderstanding others. Each person has unique experiences, and they will express them in unique ways. Listen to them instead of assuming before you respond.

Lesson #9: Don’t Argue for the Sake of Arguing.
This is something I see all the time: a person expresses an opinion and another person who has a different opinion instantly contradicts them. There is no practical benefit in converting this person to their side, and it’s improbable that they will, but they stubbornly try nonetheless. There are times to argue, when there is practical value in doing this. But these are the exceptions rather than the rules.

Lesson #10. Smile!
It’s such a simple act, which can communicate so many positive things, and can brighten up somebody’s day. Smiling is generally the act of the confident and the happy. It creates subtle but powerful effects and it’s something I recommend that you practice consciously each day.

And of course, whatever lessons you put into practice in your communication, remember to enjoy the process. It can be as meaningful as the destination of having cutting edge communication skills.

Additional Resources

Photo by Team Traveller.

19 Comments on "Top 10 Lessons in Improving Communication"

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  1. Theo says:

    This is a great article, i allways used to have trouble talking to people and expressing myself, I am much better these days but I wish I had come across some good advice like this years ago! I’m sure this is going to help a lot of people.

  2. Great post! Just shared it on Twitter so that those who follow me there can read it too. There are so many great points in here and seriously every single person can benefit from reading this!

  3. “Probably the most common mistake in communication is loosing the attention of the people you’re talking to,”

    I assume you meant “losing” — “loosing” would imply you deliberately severed their attentiveness.

  4. It’s surprising at how people overrate their communication skills. I have to admit that I do the same thing. A bad habit that I learned form my mother is to start in the middle of a story. I’ve been learning to take a few minutes before I tell a story. By slowing down and getting my thoughts together I’m much more clear.

  5. Patricia says:

    Thank you for the introduction JD – this is great advice. I truly laughed out loud when I read #6 ASK, because I was always hoping the other person would figure out my wants and needs.

    I talked to a community college special Ed. teacher who is so worried about communications skills in her student and their lack of thinking and problem- solving skills she has been seeking counseling herself to begin to let go….reading skills are so poor and comprehension is not there and they do not know how to discuss ideas, she feels hopeless about teaching the new generation after 31 years of teaching!

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Baker says:

    Wonderful lessons in Clearer communication. I like the metaphor as communication being like a muscle. We have to continue to work on it and develop it. These are great thanks for sharing.

  7. Farnoosh says:

    Even though I know most of these lessons, there is a freshness to your approach that made me read it to the end. Thank you for the necessary reminders – and what a great photo version for See No Evil/Hear no Evil/Speak no Evil! :)

  8. Sandra Lee says:

    That is one terrific quote! All these resonate for me, but especially #5 about being clear. I have come to learn that “in a few minutes” means “right away” to me whereas it means “10 or 15 minutes” to my husband. Being precise really helps!

  9. Hilary says:

    Hi Eduard and JD .. gosh I wish I’d thought about this when I was a teenager .. and had this resource. I learnt late in life and still need, as you so rightly point out, to improve these skills. We so often interrupt people and don’t let them finish their point .. and we can ask questions to clarify the situation. The other thing you mention is to stay on topic …. so often we deviate off on many different paths.

    Thanks – really interesting .. Hilary

  10. @Theo – I used to have trouble too. I’m living proof that communication ad people skills are learnable.

    @B. Clay Shannon – Oooops, yes, it’s “losing”. Spelling error.

    @Carl – that’s great. You’re aware of something specific you’re doing in communication, and you’re consciously changing it. The new habit will develop in no time ;)

  11. @Particia – most people expect that. Reading other peoples’ minds and figuring their needs seems to be seen as some sort of great virtue. Unfortunately, nobody can really do that. Like it or not, if we want to get what we need, he must learn to ask for it.

    @Baker – thanks man! I see improving any skill like training a muscle. I find this to be a suggestive metaphor.

    @Farnoosh – I’m blushing. It’s good to know what type of value my writing provides.

  12. @Sandra – I had a quarrel recently with a friend for the exact same reason. I thought he was very late to a meeting, he thought he has marginally late.

    @Hilary – Thanks, I’m glad you liked it.

  13. Ed Han says:

    This is excellent: I agree wholeheartedly! And it’s always nice to meet another speech & debate person!

  14. Hey Eduard,

    Wonderful! If only this were taught in the schools so kids could live their lives knowing this info. People only find this out through trial and tribulation or reading it in a book or on a blog like this.

    # 6, 7 and 8 really stand out. Folks don’t ask then get upset. I used to do this too because I had never learned that you could ask or rather I did know this as a child and it got drummed out of me.

    Thanks!

    Giulietta

  15. Talk to the Point. Love this one. If we could all just stay present, focused and in this groove life would be a whole lot more interesting. Good tips, thanks.

  16. @Ed – likewise :)

    @Giulietta – yes, I think we’re far better off teaching this kind of stuff to kids instead of chemistry.

    @Tom – I had to put that one in there. Focus is very important in my view.

  17. Narendra says:

    nice tutorial bose…