Are you a good communicator?

June 21, 2010

We all communicate daily, through more than one medium, and yet do we ever stop to ask ourselves whether we are doing it well?

Have you ever noticed how a simple email can be read with humour, frustration, happiness, exasperation, blame or just neutrally depending on the mood you’re in when you read it? Texts too can be equally difficult, as anybody with teenagers knows. They also carry the added complication of abbreviations and teen speak, a language specially designed to confuse so that they are always misunderstood and have licence to do as they wish because ‘they did tell us, we were just too old and stupid to understand!’

In my opinion emails and texts are fine for gentle reminders or confirming arrangements but when it comes to meaningful idea-sharing communication there is only one way forward and that’s through a good old fashioned conversation, preferably face-to-face…. I really am becoming such a technophobe!

What makes a good verbal communicator?

Well, as I see it

  1. Language that the other person understands and built-in check points to assess whether what you are saying is being understood…… question them to ensure clear understanding and paraphrase or repeat it in a different way if you need to clarify.
  2. A sensitive tone, intonation and pace, checking in with the listener from time to time to ensure not only that your words are being heard, but that their meaning is being understood.
  3. Body language. Is the way you are standing or sitting in line with what are you trying to say? Are you looking intimidating, relaxed, confident, open?
  4. Are you allowing the other person enough time to respond? Is there a balance to the conversation so that they have the opportunity to speak while you listen… or are you lecturing, hammering home your point until they submit and wave the white flag?
  5. Is what you’re saying interesting? If it’s not of interest to you it’s guaranteed not to be of interest to anyone else. Make sure there’s a point to what you have to say and if you see those tell tale signs of losing interest ( especially if it’s a full-on-drive-a-bus-in yawn ) quit before they nod off!
  6. Weave the thread. Continuity is key to a good communication. Link what you are saying to the listeners comments or views shared earlier in the conversation.
  7. Be versatile: If the other person doesn’t seem to ‘get it’ don’t repeat it the same way only louder! Try and use questions to understand where the break down in communication is happening and explain your point in a different way.
  8. Never try to explain things to someone when they’re angry. When all they can see is red they are not receptive. Your words will fall on stoney ground and you’re better off calmly saying ‘ I can’t talk to you when you’re angry. We’ll continue this conversation later when we’re both calm’….. and walk away.
  9. Be interested not just interesting. Give the other person a chance to speak and be genuinely interested in what they are saying. Ask questions, add comments and smile.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand something. You cannot communicate your point if you’ve not understood theirs. It’s not a sign of ignorance, it’s filling the gaps in communication.

5-minute challenge

Where is communication causing you problems in your life?

Could better communication stop the misunderstandings, irritations and arguments occurring?

What can you do differently to communicate your feelings?

Choose one area of conflict and write down 3 key messages you would like to communicate. Leave blame and anger out. If you cannot, then leave it until you feel calmer. What do you want to say in a neutral way to express yourself?

Often sentences that follow this formula serve us best in taking the heat and blame out of a conversation:

‘When you say/do…………………… I feel …………..’

‘What I want from you is………………….’

In this way there is no blame attached. It is just simple fact.

Notice your communication style this week and measure it against the 10 points above.


Have a great week of communicating.



Photo by Salvatore Vuono: