We all learn how to speak but few learn how to communicate effectively. You can find a lot of information on the internet about communication but I’m going to address a simple mistake a lot of people make when communicating. And, it’s very easy to fix. Let’s face it; most people are in a hurry so if you don’t get your point across within the first few seconds you will lose your audience whether it’s an audience of one or many.
Keep in mind, I’m referring to serious communication and not chatting. Chatting is different. For one thing; there’s no point. It’s all about connecting, not communicating. And, no one’s really listening; everyone’s just waiting for their turn to say something.
However, in serious communication, before you speak (or write) ask yourself a very simple question;
“What’s my point?”
If you can’t answer this, you’re wasting your breath. It means you need to start your brain before you put your mouth into gear. If you don’t know what your point is, you first need to find out. Many people “think” with their mouths. That is they ramble and beat around the bush until they finally get to the point. By the time they get to the point, their audience has long ago lost interest, is thinking about something else, has stopped listening or has fallen asleep with their eyes open.
If you don’t know what your point is, then practice your “speech” by rambling and beating around the bush in your head, quietly, to yourself until you get to the point. Once you have the point, then you’re ready to put your mouth into gear.
Armies know how to train their soldiers because they’ve been doing it for thousands of years. Here are the three steps an army uses to get its point across to their soldiers.
1) First they tell them what they’re going to tell them (that’s the point)
2) Then they tell them
3) Finally, they tell them what they told them.
There’s a lot of information condensed into three simple steps above so let me elaborate. Do you remember when they taught you how to write an essay in school? Perhaps they didn’t. In any case, here are the three simple steps. If this sounds familiar it’s because you write an essay the same way the army teaches their soldiers.
1) Introduction – tells the reader what the essay is about (that’s the point)
2) Body – describes, explains and elaborates on the topic
3) Conclusion – summarizes and wraps it up
Like the army, an introduction alerts the listener or reader what to listen for. In other words, it gives them a hook upon which to hang the information they’re receiving. Without this hook, they’re asking, “What’s this all about?” Your first job is to tell your listener what it’s all about so you need to get to the point right away. Here are three different examples:
a) Army: today we’re going to tell you how to fire your rifle
b) Me: I’ll tell you how to improve communication by getting your point across
c) You: “Honey, I’m leaving you forever and I’ll tell you why.”
In each of these cases, it’s clear to the listener what the rest of the discussion is about. The introduction of an essay or the army first telling them what they’re going to tell them, tells the reader or listener what the rest of the communication is all about. Without this, the listener is confused and wondering what’s this all about? The soldier needs to know they’re learning about rifles and not just another lecture about personal hygiene or avoiding STDs or whatever. You need to know that this essay is about communicating more effectively. And Honey needs to know this is all about why you’re leaving.
Here’s how to do it the wrong way. Imagine this conversation:
“Honey, you never pay attention to me. You don’t get along with my mother. You’re always out with the boys. (By this time, honey has heard all this nagging before and he stops listening.) Your breath stinks, you snore, you have a drinking problem, nag, nag, nag. And, so that’s why I’m leaving you” (Finally, the POINT!)
He says, “What?!? Why are you leaving?” (He hasn’t been listening because you never got the point across at the beginning so he didn’t know what he was listening for.)
Poor communication cuts across all genders and no gender has a monopoly on it. Whenever you hear yourself say, “You just don’t listen” or “I don’t think she heard what I said” it means you’re not communicating and chances are it’s because you started talking before you knew what you were talking about so you lost your audience’s attention. It’s not just their fault that they’re not listening; it’s also your responsibility to tell your listener what to listen for and to do that you need first to figure out what your point is and say it up front. Get my point?
September 25, 2011
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