Imagine you’re listening: 3 ways to be a better communicator
The best communicators are those that are constantly imagining if they were on the receiving end of their own message. In this way, the best communicators are, ironically, the best listeners. They listen to themselves when they speak, making sure they keep it short, interesting, and explanatory. Then, they ensure that what was said was understood.
Consider the following 3 ways that employees can become good communicators in the workplace and advance in their professional development.
1) Keep it short and sweet
Remember that people have short attention spans and limited memory. For this reason, the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) recommends that communicators should break up a complex goal into simpler, easier actions for their employees to do.
Carmine Gallo, a speaker, communication coach, and author on effective communication wrote a Forbes article on why a 20 minute speech is better than a 60 minute speech. He found that telling an audience little snippets of information then letting their brains have breaks was effective.
Gallo interviewed scholar Dr. Paul King of Texas Christian University who has done research on how listeners get anxious the more a speech is drawn out. Why? King says that people get more nervous when they have to retain more information, leading to something called "cognitive backlog." No more information can be stored and your brain, like a computer, shuts off from information overload.
Gallo gave the example of Steve Jobs as a skilled short and sweet communicator. His 90 minute speech involved only 10-20 minutes of actual speaking. The rest was punctuated with other speakers and entertaining demo videos, which give what Gallo calls "soft brain breaks."
In this way, better communication involves imagining you're the listener.
2) Explain "why"
Explaining why your message is important make people understand better in the long-term.
Explain why what you are saying is important by imagining that you are hearing it for the first time, too.
Another BIT study found that a UK tax authority, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), was more effective when it sent letters to late tax payers explaining why it's important to pay their taxes.
It sounds ridiculous that you could convince someone to pay up this way, but it worked. When people were told in letters that nine out of 10 people pay their taxes on time, the payment rates increased by five percentage points.
Mentioning that nine out of 10 people pay their taxes provides an explanation for why it's important to pay taxes. This statistic is intended to say: "Everyone else is doing their part and so should you." Plus, the explanation is backed up by fact, which the University of Pittsburgh says is important because people are more likely to be convinced of what is being said when it is followed by some form of reasoning.
Explanation also makes your employees more autonomous in solving future problems on their own. The University of Berkeley mentions a study by Joseph J. Williams and Tania Lombrozo who found that explanation enables listeners to discern underlying patterns. Not only does this make people understand better in the short-term, but it also solves future misunderstandings.
So, explain as if you are the listener learning for the first time to make sure employees fully understand.
3) Determine if the message was received
Remember that communication is a two-way street. You can't just throw information at someone and think, "done." It's good practice to ensure that the person received and understood the message.
This is especially important in staff training. The trainer should check in with the trainee to confirm they understood. The University of Pittsburgh proposes that one way you can be an active listener is by restating or summarising what the speaker has said.
At Implement Online, we know that effective communication is essential to the functioning of a business, which is why we have a course on Communication in the Workplace. Find out how you can become a better communicator today to aid in your professional growth.