Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try, just one more time."... Thomas A. Edison
1. Update and Improve your Resume
Keep your resume up-to-date but keep it short. It's not necessary to state all your endeavours from the moment you stepped foot out of college or university. Focus on the last few recent years of your work or career. Leave out unimportant information and customise your resume for the particular job you are applying for. If you're planning to use an online job application board, bear in mind that most of the leading systems use artificial intelligence software. Use wording from the job description you are applying for in your resume as keywords are used that are relevant to the job to be filled. Do not use synonyms or technical jargon as it may cause software to overlook potentially relevant information.
2. Practice speaking on camera and get comfortable with remote interviewing
Most companies are moving to remote interviewing. While being physically present in an interview can be nerve racking, remote interviewing can pose some of its own challenges that are often overlooked. Actions such as how to dress, where to look, how to sit, position the camera, room lighting and reflections pose some serious thought.
Make sure you dress neatly, and not just your top half, in case you need to stand up. Keep the background uncluttered and have good visible lighting. Make sure the light is not coming from behind you as it will blind the camera. Test your visual and audio settings by recording a few trials to see how your interviewer will perceive and hear you.
Look directly into the webcam - not at the screen! This will make it look like you are making eye contact and are engaged in the conversation. It also helps to focus on the discussion and not be distracted by visual elements on screen. Using your gestures while speaking is said to improve the connection with your audience and shows that you are comfortable with the conversation.
3. Boost your LinkedIn profile
Boost your LinkedIn profile by filling out all the required fields in personal settings. Add personal projects, update skills and experience and have a professional current profile image. Include recommendations from your previous employer, work colleagues or previous clients. Check your LinkedIn profile rating as you go. The website intuitively lets you know where you can improve your profile so spend some time ironing out the kinks.
4. Promote your core skills or soft skills and remote working experience
Non-technical related competencies are becoming increasingly important in today's online business dealings and relationships. Core skills such as language and communication, empathy, problem solving, self management, punctuality, social and online skills and adaptability, can place you at the top of the list.
5. Boost your skill set or take an online course
Now is the perfect time to learn some new skills, take an online course, or improve your own shortcomings and weaknesses. For example, If you're having trouble communicating effectively, try taking a course in communication - after all, good communication is vital for all interaction and even more so in a world facing a pandemic.
Psychological trauma is a unique individual experience of an event or enduring conditions, in which:
Your trauma is not your fault, but your healing is your responsibility!
Trauma is not just one having to deal with emotional or psychological conditions. A traumatic event or series of events can also affect ones ability to communicate effectively.
As an example, I would like to refer to being held up by six men at gun point. During the fact, you can only hope that you do not scream, cry, break down or retaliate in any way. Following the event, you are filled with adrenaline; anger; an overwhelming feeling of still being alive and being able to continue accomplishing what you have set out do. Finally you break! The tears start coming and they do not stop. When the crying has ceased for a little while and you begin thinking about what just happened, you cry again. This is the initial effect, the initial feeling of the trauma setting in and settling until you alone decide you need to exorcise yourself of it. Make no mistake, dealing with trauma is no walk in the park even for the greatest psychologist.
You, yourself, have to be open about the events of the day, the moment, usually with a complete stranger, which can be very difficult in itself if you are not a very open person, or someone who is able to share your thoughts and emotions with others easily. So, it begins. You sit in her or his office and you have to rehash that traumatic, soul-destroying event. "tell me what happened" "tell me how the events of the day unfolded" and just then a hard gulp in your throat is felt as you try to search for the words to answer this question. Invasive? Yes to some of us. Your mind is scrambling to find the words. You almost say something as you try at the same time to fight back tears. You did not know it could hurt so much. You never knew how strong you were until you had to be and then you crashed and burned at the end. Am I really that strong? Did I just go through something life-altering? You are filled with confusion as well. Why did this have to happen to me? Why was I a target? Why did i lose my belongings? my phone is gone and my connection to the world has been taken with it. Why did he lift his hand to me?
For the moment, clarity returns to you and you finally brave the moment to start talking and rid yourself of these very negative, self-destroying thoughts. She speaks. That harrowing event will hopefully be a thing of the past. You are told that at any time you want to break down you have every right to. A series of other questions are asked and you are completely terrified not to just sit with this stranger, but to talk. Talking about this particular event is one of the most uncomfortable things you have had to do to date. All you remember during the event - what helped you to get through it - was that you wanted to get home to your partner, spouse, children, your life as you know it. As each layer of your persona is gently stripped away, you begin to feel lighter; more hopeful. You realise that this person sitting in front of you is there to guide you, calm you, reassure your safety in the world and in this office and that you can go home and rest easier knowing that all will be well and that although you are walking through a very smoky, dark, painful situation right now, you will come through it triumphant, stronger, braver than before. Well wishes and love is sent to you as this special connection is finally broken.
You are now able to once again walk freely, safely, in a shopping centre without having to look over your shoulder. The colour blue is not a trigger for you any more. Those endless days of writing and relieving yourself of that raw emotional grief, stress, anger, are gone. You are no longer isolating yourself from colleagues, friends and familt. What comes out now are calm, peaceful thoughts. Love, no tears, no fear, pure love for oneself and the people around you. You are at peace. You are happy. This reminds me of the poem "Upon Westminster Bridge" by William Wordsworth, where he states, "Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!" he is completely at peace looking over the bridge at this magificent view.
I have not neglected the communication side of trauma. On the contrary, communication will always be inhibited if we are not controlled, thoughtful, deliver a message with the correct intention. Communication is not just about speaking and merely saying words. If your mental state, thoughts, body, emotions are not in sync, deal with it. You need to walk through the pain to get to the best part. Be brave, do not give up. I promise, you will come out the other end better than you were before. I know I did.
This was a true account of what I personally went through just a year ago. My journey is still continuing and every day I am so thankful that I was able to deal with the very challenging events of that day. I am here. I am alive and I will strive to do the best I can every day and be the best I can. Our communication may not always be perfect, but there is always space to learn and improve. Do not throw away the opportunity to heal yourself. Without you being completely healthy, your communication will always need attention and assistance. Self-mastery is a lifelong goal that we are all continuously striving towards.
I recently watched a Ted Talk video and truly loved the message that was conveyed by Clint Smith to his audience. I then decided to look a little deeper and analyse the communication and body language messages that Clint gives. Although the message was undeniably excellent, I decided to jot down a few pointers that are useful to keep in mind when finding oneself in a public speaking or presentation setting. This post will be the first of many Ted Talks analyses and I would like to encourage you to comment and offer your opinions as well, when it comes to body language, presentation and public speaking skills.
At first glance, Clint seemed outwardly and sufficiently confident. However, on closer inspection, it was obvious that he was anything but. The fact that he was to speak at this event; being in a large hall decked with professional cameramen; sound technicians; lighting technicians; people from the media and of course the audience, I found it quite remarkable that Clint was able to convey the message to his audience and listeners in the best way that he could.
His hand gestures were typical of a trained speaker, although his apparently monotonous voice did not correlate with these or the message he was trying to convey. If you look carefully at his facial expression, he hardly smiled. Yes, the message was serious, although it is important to still smile at times; showing the audience that you are at ease and are enjoying addressing them. Clint's lack of facial expression and monotony then flowed into overly accelerated speech; wringing of his hands; and him remaining in one position on the stage with his legs tightly held together. All of the above and more are indicative of anxiety and a sudden rush of adrenaline that has overwhelmed his body.
Clint's pausing in between sentences and breath control seemed laboured, jerky and challenging for him to control. This is yet another aspect indicative of a speaker being overcome by nerves, which causes one to not communicate as effectively as possible.
After I finished watching the talk I have a few questions. Is this person nervous because he is speaking on Ted Talks? Perhaps it is that he does not believe what he is saying. Is he trying to control himself to such an extent that his body in turn leaks confusing messages? It does not matter how good you are at speaking, at the end of the day if you do not believe in what you are saying and you are not communicating "your truth" (as Clint says in his talk), then your body language will not match your message. Essentially a speaker who does this gives off contradictory signals, which in turn produces a response that he may not be entirely be happy with and which will leave the audience feeling uncomfortable.
A message, no matter how good or bad, is always internalized and thought of first and then vocalised. The voice must always be accompanied by, and match up with, one's body language as well, so as not to create confusion and misunderstanding. If body language does not reflect what you believe and what you are saying then subconscious messages come to the fore via leakage.
Clint Smith: The danger of silence
I was recently interviewed on the radio. The mere thought of speaking and being broadcast to thousands of listeners was enough to excite and jolt ones nerves into submission. Why is it that once we become overly emotional or excited, it becomes challenging to communicate and to truly express ourselves verbally? Now some of us are thankfully born with the gift of the gab, which essentially means that you are very capable of speaking and communicating in any situation. On the other hand, some of us find it challenging to overcome and to get on top of our extreme emotions.
Considering how our emotions impact on our ability to communicate effectively in all instances, it is so important to understand and accept what our strong extreme emotions are and exactly what it is that makes us tick.
Whoever told you that presenting to a group of people is easy, does not know what he or she is talking about. Coming up with a brilliant idea is not a problem. The way in which it comes across to your audience is what makes a difference. Presenting to a group of people can be a daunting exercise - a trial of fire - but one which you emerge from as a more confident communicator, who is able to connect with a diverse range of people.
I recently attended a meeting where a presentation was being given. The presenter was visibly nervous, well-dressed and had well-prepared information. Unfortunately, it can be very challenging in getting a hold on ones nerves during these situations. Everyone has a different way of dealing with nerves when in front of an audience or a large group of people. At the end of the day, whether you imagine everyone being naked; down a few shots of scotch or tell a joke to break the ice, it is important that you can control your nerves and are able to get your point across in the best way possible. Yes, we are always selling ourselves and even when we think we are not, we still are.
I always tell my clients that when they speak, they must imagine that it is as if a river is flowing from their mouths. Your body, thoughts, speech and body language are all interconnected. They must all flow in unison, each being a part of the greater whole and should mimic the ebb and flow of the ocean and its waves. It is very interesting how the sound of water can be used to calm, and on the other hand too much or too little can have negative results. So too with communication - and presentations. Just allow your mind, soul, body and language to flow as easily and continuously as a river and so too will the presentation.
Correct posture, positive facial expressions and gestures as well as engaging with the audience are some of the tools in the proverbial basket that allow you to influence a person or group of people whether it is an idea that you are selling or presenting a financial report at a shareholders meeting. The verbal and non-verbal elements in any presentation must match, When they are contrary to each other, the audience becomes confused, creating doubt, mistrust and disbelief in the presenter and the message that is being conveyed. People by their very nature veer towards consistency; and it is the consistency between what you say and what you do that will win over even the most hostile audience.
You go for a job interview and receive the call that the job is yours. You are filled with appreciation, excitement and an increased level of self confidence. You arrive for work and are shown to your desk or office and for the first week everything seems to be going well. Your boss shows you the ropes and explains what needs to be done on a daily basis. In no time you are able to perform to the standard that is required. A short time later you are told that you need to create a permanent place for yourself within the company and "something" for yourself so that you become indispensable. Following this one-sided discussion. a day passes and your supervisor or manager is on your back again about something else. You are berated, made to feel less than, and in some extreme cases even sworn at.
What do you make of this? is this abuse? is this a case of an indecisive manager? Are you at fault? On the one hand you may need to keep this job; on the other hand, the mixed messages that you have been constantly receiving can cause much damage to ones self-esteem. Such "communication" smacks of disrespect and poor communication skills.
The definition of communication according to the Oxford dictionary is "The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium." Of course this does not say anything about kindness, fairness or decency for other people. It is merely the ability to impart information from one person to another. However, if the message is constantly mixed up and unclear; or whether a task is completed by you satisfactorily and you are not commended for the effort or for completing the task, then where did the lines of communication become blurred or non-existent? What is the point in developing and nurturing a long-standing business relationship with this type of person?
Where does this end? When do you finally decide that you have been sufficiently abused and mistreated and that the time has come to simply walk away?
A business is unable to expand without everyone pulling in the same direction. It becomes difficult though, when the customers are treated well by this person, who belittles his or her staff. What is even worse is when customers happen to be in the vicinity while you are being scolded. Putting aside the fact that you are an employee, even if you were to pull the manager aside and speak frankly about the fact that you will not be treated this way, will possibly only make matters worse. The fact is that you are in a catch-22 position. In other words, and as the story seems to be going, "damned if you do and damned if you don't." At times you may kick yourself and try to gear yourself up to say to this bully "I quit!" but on the other hand where is the sense in that?
The answer is not as cut and dried as we all like to think. Quitting a job, just like saying goodbye to a loved one or being placed in very emotionally challenging situations can teach us a lot about our own character. We are able to learn very valuable lessons from these scenarios. However, what is concerning is the fact that some people seem to have lost their compassion, that can be very useful, not only when creating friendships, but also in business. Communicate effectively and a message will be decoded in the way you intend. Use emotion and power in a message, and it would seem that at least one party gets hurt or offended! Is it unethical to communicate this way in business?
Do you find that you tense up and busy yourself with odds and bobs around the office when you hear that you need to begin cold calling? Are you putting silly notions in your own head that you will not get the deal and therefore you are refraining from cold calling? Let's all take a step back and just breathe! I find that the best way to overcome this fear or negative attitude towards cold calling is to relax and put yourself in a positive space, and most importantly, try to get yourself into a powerful position or powerful mindset. Below are a few tips that have helped me through cold calling, which I am certain will do the same for you. It is important to keep in mind that making a cold call is not just having a person on the receiving end of the telephone listening to all you have to say and to eventually agree with you and buy all that you have to offer. A cold call is an art in itself and by following a few set rules, you can save yourself much frustration, pain and rejection. This must begin with self control and an understanding of how consumers think.
To begin with, attitude is everything! Do not begin the cold call when you are in a bad mood. Always smile before picking up the receiver and the other person will feed off your happiness. When making this telephone call, make sure that you are in the right frame of mind and that you are willing to deal with all the negativity and rejection words: "I am sorry, but the boss is out of the office right now." "The boss is fully booked for the next three months." "Sorry, but the boss has just stepped away from his/her desk." "I am sorry, but the boss has said that you can send a proposal and he will get back to you." Eventually, you hear so many sorry's that collectively, it almost sounds insincere. How would you react to all of these comments? If not for your desire to make your business a success, you would just give up. It may be a good idea to effectively communicate your desires and sell! Make sure that you speak clearly and in a direct and firm manner. It does not matter what industry you are in, you will always notice that you will need to either sell yourself as a brand or sell your product. Both positions require effective and direct communication.
As a response to the above comment, that the boss would prefer to look at a proposal before meeting with you, hypothetically try to consider a rewind of the phone call. As I mentioned, attitude is everything, so always begin your phone call by asking the secretary how she/he is and if she/he is able to assist you. Provide a brief explanation of what it is you do and how you are able to assist the company. Some times the front line staff member will automatically ask you to send an email with your business profile, website address and other important information required for the company to get an idea of what you can provide. Do not forget to ask if there is a chance that you will be able to speak with the owner of the company directly to organize a meeting. This response is more direct and instead of being defeatist, you are creating a relationship with one of the most important people in the company. If the company owner is unavailable, ask if you can call back and speak with him or her at a more convenient time.
It is imperative that you create that initial positive and trusting relationship in order to be able to gain access to the boss. How do you create that aspect of trust and develop your relationships with others? Some make jokes and this can work. However, you need to ensure that if you make a joke, it is not rude, has no racial insults and is not degrading of people in general. Have you tried using this method? did you find that this worked for you? Remember to always be professional and mind your manners!
Mind Your Manners
People have forgotten how important it is to have manners. Being courteous and polite does not mean that you are allowing someone to take advantage of your good nature. Politeness means that you have come from good breeding and that you have respect for yourself and for other human beings. A mere "please" and "thank you", opening a door for someone in need or allowing another person to walk through a door before you, always goes a long way.
If you want something bad enough, you need to have the desire, drive and guts to go and get it for yourself and do not stop trying until you reach your goal! the only person standing between you and your goal is yourself. Stop telling yourself that you "can't". Rather pick yourself up and try your best. The only way you will learn and improve is by making mistakes. Show the front line staff member that you mean business, you are trustworthy and would like to assist the company. Once you create this relationship, the rest becomes easier.
Speaking With The "Big Boss"
At long last, you finally manage to get through to the company owner. What do you say? By now you are slightly shaken, palms sweaty, you have a lump in your throat and are just about to drop the phone and bow your head in shame. No! step back, take a deep breath. It is almost as if you have to prepare yourself not only for the conversation with the front line staff member and the time it takes for you to eventually be transferred to the boss, but also to eventually speak directly to the boss. These calls can create such a whirlwind of emotions, where even after a simple telephone conversation we find ourselves completely shattered or extremely excited. From a communication perspective, both of these extremities can cause us to loose sight of what it that we truly want and how we need to get it.
Of course, we all know that sales can be a very challenging career choice that one is required to constantly work at and to continuously develop relationships and connections with many different people. These connections then provide leverage for you to be able to do business with the larger companies. Do not be hasty, needy, a constant bother, insulting or give any reason for your business connection to not want to have anything to do with you. I am not saying lie down and allow your connection to do as he/she pleases with you. I am saying stand your ground when needed, but be prepared to back away when this is also necessary. It can be tough to gauge, but over time and the more you practice cold calling and relationship building, the easier it will become.
The trick is to always remain calm, know your business inside out and make sure that you have a full understanding of your product and costing. Without these, it becomes very difficult to get the upper hand when cold calling and when you eventually reach the opportunity to have your meeting. Always keep at a fairly even emotional and mental state. Think clearly and know what it that you want out of the meeting.
What is Return on Investment (ROI)? Does one size fit all businesses? How does one assess ROI when it comes to communication, and particularly the training and coaching of communication skills? If your business is not grappling with these questions then it is likely missing out on a critical component of improving sales, customer experience, staff satisfaction, improvements in productivity and increases in revenue.
Communication skills are often taken for granted. This is ironic, as it is the lifeblood of any business. If one considers the five areas mentioned, each one is directly or indirectly reliant on effective verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Understanding how effective an employee is at applying their skills and knowledge in the way they communicate is an essential component in determining whether there has, in fact, been a return on investment and a closing of the skills gap.
Businesses tend to only consider the direct impact that expenses have on their bottom line, and for this reason the development of communication skills is often harder to justify. The indirect impact that improved communication has, is far more valuable than most managers and executives are prepared to admit. So let's take a closer look at these five areas and how communication training and coaching has a positive impact on employees, the business and its customers.
Sales is the lifeblood in every business. It has become an increasingly challenging and demanding function, having a direct impact on a business' profitability. Sales is also no longer confined to only a sales team. Everyone within a business must be on the lookout for new opportunities to do business. How one communicates with and relates to other people, especially potential customers, is of vital importance.
Sales improvements are immediately measurable in a number of ways. Establishing how much of a difference communication training and coaching makes over and above other factors allows management to calculate the return on investment. Communication assessments, measuring interpersonal skills, clarity of speech, assertiveness and other factors make this distinction easier to identify. The human interaction and communication components of sales require measurement, since sales has become far more relationship oriented.
Customer service allows for the opportunity to on-sell, up-sell and is essential in retaining existing customers. A business and all its client-facing employees must foster a good relationship with customers. Customer service does not only entail treating a customer respectfully and providing good products or services at competitive prices. Taking the time to establish a relationship with customers and communicating effectively and empathetically, however enhances the perception of service excellence. Looking after one's customers and communicating more effectively creates new opportunities for business to be done at a lower cost of sale where the business relationship has already been established.
Every business, whether service or product-based will at times forget about its most valuable asset - its staff. A happy staff is a productive staff. A happy staff results from being satisfied in the workplace and this is usually due to three main reasons:
Effective communication, in fact, forms the basis of any happy staff, whether that communication comes in the form of: understanding one's specific job role, being involved in a meaningful 2-way dialogue (in the case of suggestions, appraisals and similar internal discussions) or just developing team unity and constructive criticism. Without proper internal communication there cannot be true staff satisfaction and staff turnover rates increase, having a profound impact on a business' recruitment costs - and ultimately its bottom line.
Productivity has a direct impact on the sustainability and profitability of any business. Firm but fair communication is an essential factor in motivating and encouraging employees, as well as dealing with issues of conflict, complaints and job effectiveness. An unmotivated and under-appreciated (verbally) staff tends to be be more involved in negative self-talk. This has a dire effect on morale and productivity. Reduced levels of productivity may result in an increased number of dissatisfied customers, meaning that both the sales and customer service departments have to work even harder to retain those customers. This has a direct impact, once again, on the cost of sale and keeping clients. Effective verbal and non-verbal communication from suitably skilled supervisors and managers goes a long way to minimizing this downward spiral in a business. These skills are equally necessary for lower level employees, so that they are equipped to express themselves without having to go to such extremes as strikes or mass action.
All four of these key areas are impacted by the way that businesses, supervisors, managers and leaders interact and communicate with their employees. All four have a direct or indirect effect on a company's bottom line, and all four are dependent on various communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal, being suitably managed at both individual and group levels. What business can, therefore, afford not to train or coach their employees at all levels?
Whether it is sales, customer service, productivity or staff satisfaction, effective communication is imperative. The "soft skill" of communicating positively has been overlooked by many businesses and training or coaching in this skill has often been disregarded as showing a return on investment. Nothing could be further from the truth.
~ Michelle Shippel is a speech and communication specialist and the MD of Talkwell Communications. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of my favourite musicals "My Fair Lady" has always had, and always will have, a great and very positive impact on both my life and my work. Funnily enough, I was even referred to by one of my many clients as "the Fair Lady." The ability to communicate and express oneself genuinely, whether through a musical instrument, vocally, artistically or through dance has becoming increasingly challenging and without the basic tools in order to do so, this ability may possibly never be mastered. Now of course not everyone is artistic. Not everyone has the luxury of learning to play an instrument or to develop and nurture an acting talent. However, everyone is given the opportunity and basic tools to learn how to speak and express themselves through verbal and non- verbal communication. This is taught in schools; by parents and for those who may require, through professional teachers and or therapists.
Being able to string a sentence together or recite a phrase can be done by anyone as long as the basic skills have been acquired. However, in the world of work, where constant "boiling, bubbling, toiling and troubling" happen, you will need to up your game! Why you ask, is it important to express yourself genuinely through different modes? Well, I will not answer this question for you, as the answer is obviously within you. However, I will give you examples of people who should have taken this opportunity and would have been the better for it.
Some time back, I was introduced to a gentleman who was a regular professional speaker. He decided that he needed a few sessions in order to extend himself. However, as a result of some personal troubles, he had to quit his training. Of course, he was making progress. However, had he continued with his training on a constant basis, he would have achieved what he wanted to, and far more. In other words, nurturing and mastering your communication skills is an art in itself, that requires time, patience, energy and continuity. The time factor has always, understandably, bothered people, however achieving personal goals takes time and frustration can raise its ugly head. In this case, and let us assume we are focusing on voice exercises, just stop what you are doing and take a step back. Personal development can be aggravating, but do not get disconcerted. Relax and see things for what they are and allow yourself the time to develop and work on yourself properly.
Currently, as we know it, the world is slowly coming out of an economic crisis. This unfortunately means that the skill allowing people to genuinely and properly communicate is packed away in a box, stacked away in the cellar of your enclosed mind and forgotten about for many years, until it becomes too late to seek out this assistance or even to do anything with this ability. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What's a sundial in the shade? If self development is something that you seek and is needed, then it should be sought after straight away. You have one vehicle in this life and it is your body; treat it well, respect it and make sure that you are given the attention that you need not only from others but from you yourself as well, otherwise you become of very little use and maybe even a hindrance, in extreme cases, to those around you.
So, what is so important about being able to communicate? This is a challenging question to answer as each person has a different need, reason for wanting to communicate, a different reason for the need of self expression. So, as an example we will look at corporates. The corporate world requires that you dress, speak, act and perform certain roles in a particular way. If you do not fit in with the culture of the company, then it is highly likely that you will not get the job. However, if you are confident; have excellent interpersonal skills; you have a good understanding of your area of expertise; your body language matches what you are saying and you can speak eloquently; then it is more likely that you will excel at both the job interview and the job itself. Of course, there is so much more entailed when it comes to being able to speak well and have good body language. The "Talkwell" side focuses on how you move those facial and other organs in order to be able to pronounce words correctly and clearly. You see, it is not enough to just be able to string a sentence together and just utter the words. Communication is the intricate weave of clear speech, emotion, word usage and word order, confidence, facial expression, pronunciation and of course knowledge on the topic.
Should you find that any of these areas are lacking, then it is most likely that you are in need of guidance and assistance to improve your communication skills. Give yourself the attention you deserve. The return on investment may not necessarily be financial. However, the ability to communicate and connect confidently is your key to unlocking the door to you future successes.
George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” It does not take a wise person to explain that there is something wrong in the way people communicate and connect with one another. Communication is an art that has to be perfected in order for it to be used to your advantage. Just take a look at these few pointers and you are well on your way to improved communication.
Step 1: Take Interest
Having a conversation is very much like trying to make a sale. Now please remember I am not talking about personality here. I am simply looking at the process that is taken from the moment you pick up the product that you are trying to sell, up until the buyer has accepted terms and conditions and has purchased the product. When we communicate, we need to remember to be calm, believe in yourself and what you are saying. Facial expression is very important! Think of what it is you want to say before you say it. This may help reduce nervous and self confidence trouble. Relax and just be yourself. Do not be pretentious and do not over-communicate and offer too much information.
The first step of starting up the conversation with others, means you need to take a genuine interest in the other person and in what he or she is telling you about. Imagine you find yourself at a party. You are standing alone by the drinks table and you see someone walking to the table to pour him/herself a drink. Do not be scared to strike up a conversation. Say hello and introduce yourself. Relax and let the conversation flow naturally. Once the introductions are out of the way and depending on how well the initial part of the conversation went, you may now proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Share
This stage allows you to talk about what you do for a living. Always be direct and confident about what you do because any uncertainty, shifty behaviour or shuffling will result in the conversation coming to an abrupt and immediate halt. If this happens, do not try to push and prod to make the conversation continue. No matter how hard you try, the other person will now unfortunately have someone better to speak with. Just let nature take its course and you never know, there may be an opportunity in the future to have a brand new and improved conversation with the same person. Allow the person to forget the previous conversation. Get up dust yourself off and have the confidence to try again and this time you will succeed.
Step 3: Create Interest
Step three allows you to now get creative and build a story for the listener. Each one of us is interesting in different ways. Find your common ground by asking questions. Do not ask too many questions and do not offer information that is not relevant to the current conversation. As an example, if the common ground has been established as loving sport, do not all of a sudden begin speaking about theatrical shows and musicals. Rather show your genuine interest in what the person is saying and try to learn from the person. Over-communication can cause the person to run for the hills and to possibly never want to speak with you again.
Just like any well rounded story, your sales pitch or conversation needs to be well-rounded and well-developed. It must have a beginning, middle and ending. Always use a positive spin. Do not be negative when speaking as the person will feel drained and disinterested, causing the conversation to taper off.
Step 4: Closing
Now that you have managed to get through the first three stages of a conversation, the rest becomes easy. You have been able to keep the person speaking till now and this is where you decide if you would like to meet the person again or if you would like to keep it to just this one conversation. Assuming you choose to see the person again, it may be a good idea to exchange contact details. Let the person know when you will be contacting him or her. Say goodbye for the evening and thank the person for taking the time to speak with you. Manners, politeness and consideration are important aspects to remember when communicating with others. If you are polite, it is more likely that the person will want to continue communicating with you and get to know you better.
These four points are basic stepping stones to beginning and maintaining any conversation. Believe in yourself, do not over-communicate and remember that there is always a necessity for politeness and manners. Follow these steps and you will be well on your way to having more effective and meaningful conversations and business relationships.
Michelle is a speech and communication specialist working with companies and individuals in South Africa and internationally.