Trying to be a More Effective Communicator

Instead of the teacher, I was the student.  I was “grasshopper”.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Dale Carnegie workshop that my employer hosted as part of our employee development program.  The course was titled “How to Say What You Mean to Get the Results That You Want”.

I was pleased (confident) when throughout the class we talked about several topics that we also cover in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Train-the-Trainer curriculum that I’ve been teaching for the past few years.

I thought I’d share with you some of the concepts, suggestions, and thoughts that I left the class with.

Some characteristics of an effective speaker. They are :

  • Engaging
  • Credible – they know their material.
  • Good listeners
  • Focused on their message
  • Animated
  • Clear and concise – no ambiguity
  • Empathetic.
  • Articulate

There are five levels of listening (from lowest to highest) – Ignore, Pretend, Selective, Attentive, Empathetic.  At the highest level “Empathetic” (which we should work towards), we are putting ourselves in the other persons shoes.  It sounds simple, but the instructor used a great analogy to make the point.  If someone wearing a size 9 shoe tries to put on a size 13 shoe, it’s impossible.  However, if they take their size 9 shoe and then place their foot into the size 13 shoe, it goes in very easily.  The point here is that an empathetic listener is one who steps out of their own shoes before stepping in to someone else’s.  The empathetic listener truly looks at things from the other perspective beyond their own.

Did you know if you rearrange the letters that spell LISTEN … it spells SILENT

The next time you find yourself talking too much, remember to WAIT … Why Am I Talking?

How we emphasize words when we speak can convey a total different impact to what we are saying. – If you say the following sentence seven different times and each time place the emphasis on a different word each time, it changes the impact of the message.  Here’s the sentence:

“I never said he stole my money”

Impact of the message – Our instructor shared with us a pie chart diagram that illustrated the non-verbal impact of a message.  The findings were attributed to a 10-year study that was conducted by a UCLA professor, Dr. Albert Mehrabian.  The study found that :

  • 7% of a message is impacted by the actual words spoken
  • 38% of a message is impacted by our tone of voice – how we say things
  • 55% of a message is impacted by non-verbals (a.k.a. our body language)

Interestingly, like many studies, these results have been challenged by others.  In other work I have read, the following suggestions were made:

  • If the purpose of your communication is to establish credibility, make an initial impression, or build a relationship, then your body language will have the greatest impact.
  • If your communication is information heavy, such as a face-to-face sale or negotiation, then words become much more important; they may be the most important components.
  • In most persuasive situations in which your body language and words clash, your audience will rely on your body language for their interpretation.

Learning Styles

As a reader of my previous blogs, you’ll know that in the CERT Train-the-Trainer curriculum, we address three different learning styles that people have – Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.  In this class, there was a short exercise that I thought was really effective; so much so I think I want to include something similar in my instructional delivery of CERT Train-the-Trainer.  The “Learning Style Survey” asks 21 different questions and provides three possible responses (Often, Sometimes, Seldom).  Once I completed the survey, I then had to go back and score my answers.   Based on the point values and total scoring, I was able to determine if I was a Visual, Auditory, or Kinesthetic learner.  I felt the survey was fairly accurate.

Another interesting fact that was shared with us was that on average, 45% of us are Kinesthetic learners, 37% are Visual learners, and 18% are Auditory learners.

I want to close with a Dale Carnegie quote that was included in a handout … “… think in terms of other people’s point of view, and see things from their angle …”  I think that as communicators, if we took this advice more often, we’d be more effective.