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How to Really Become a Better Communicator

Ever since the birth of television we have been living in an increasingly image conscious world. As a result, the way we look, and the way we act, are often more important than the words we say.

A good example of the importance of this non verbal communication can be found with research carried out after the 1960s Kennedy vs. Nixon debate.

When people were asked who had won the debate, those listening via radio awarded the victory to Nixon. However, those who were watching the debate on television awarded Kennedy the victory. This debate has since been used as a classic example of the different types of communication that a person can display.

Nixon, as judged by the radio listeners, had good verbal skills which made his message appear more persuasive than Kennedy’s. But his shifty and noticeably uncomfortable body language made television viewers suspicious and distrustful of what he was saying.

nixon jfk debate

Kennedy's body language made him more attractive to tv viewers.

Kennedy on the other hand, had weaker verbal skills and this led to radio listeners being less persuaded by his speech. However, as a result of his strong and confident body langauge, Kennedy was seen as being more persuasive by the television viewers even though the words he used may not have been as strong or as powerful as those used by Nixon.

From the Kennedy Vs. Nixon study, it was concluded that overall communication is perceived in three main ways.

55% Visually This includes body language and how you look.

38% Vocally – This relates to how you sound and how you speak.

7% Verbally – This involves the words that you speak.

When you add the visual and vocal components together, you can see that nonverbal communication accounts for 93% of the impact of your message! By contrast, the words you use only account for 7%!

Does this research mean that if you look good and sound good that you can then talk complete rubbish and still have excellent communication skills?

No. But it does mean that if you want your message to be as powerful and persuasive as possible, that you really should start working on improving your visual and vocal communication skills if they are not already at an excellent level.

Varying your communication style

Whilst the Kennedy vs. Nixon study certainly does provide a good example of the importance of nonverbal communication, the messages you speak are not always perceived 55% visually, 38% vocally and 7% verbally. This is because different circumstances will place emphasis on different types of communication.

For example, if you were making a presentation in which you were trying to establish credibility, make a good initial impression or build up a relationship with your listener, then body language will indeed tend to be the most important factor as shown by the Kennedy vs. Nixon debate.

men talking at desk

Body language plays a major role in everyday communication.

However, should you change this to a more intimate face to face communication, such as making a sale or negotiation that is primarily information focused, then words will tend to have the greatest impact.

But if you are speaking where people can’t see you, such as on the radio, an audiobook or a podcast, then the vocal component (how you sound) will be the most important factor in communicating successfully.

Communicate visually, verbally and vocally

Different circumstances will place emphasis on different forms of communication. However, it is also important to note that whilst a certain situation may call for a certain type of communication, the other forms of communication should not be ignored.

happy man

Use your whole body to communicate.

For example, if you are speaking to someone confidently (vocal), but your body language suggests that you are uncomfortable (visual), then you will send out a conflicting message to your listener just as Nixon did. This will result in a less persuasive message and/or a complete rejection by the listener of what you are saying.

A good example of communicating effectively can be found with telephone operators. During training, salespeople are told to smile while they are on the phone because this smile is conveyed through their voice to the listener.

They are taught that in order to speak convincingly, their body language must match the words of their intended message. In other words, they are taught not to send conflicting messages.

So please remember that we communicate visually, verbally and vocally. Even though one form may be dominant in a particular circumstance, the other forms of communication are still sending out messages. These messages must all be congruent in order for you to be seen as a credible speaker.

How to Improve Your Verbal Communication Skills

Your voice is an extremely powerful tool, and if you want to improve your communication skills, then you should definitely not neglect this aspect of communication.

Yet, despite the obvious importance of having good verbal skills, many people still overlook this form of communication by speaking in a flat, monotone and uninteresting voice.

speach bubble people

Don't let your words escape you. Make your voice and your conversation heard.

By learning how to speak in a way that is both interesting and powerful, you will find that people not only pay more attention to what you say, but will also be more willing to do what you say. They will be captivated by your words and eager to follow you.

So let’s have a look at some of the way in which this can be done.

1) Vary the Speed of Your Voice

turtle and hare race

Sometimes you need to slow down to win the race.

All successful speakers know the importance of varying the speed of their voice, or in other words, how quickly they talk. Generally, a good speaker will talk fast when they want to excite and energize the listener, and slow when they want to create suspense and anticipation.

Talking at the same pace all the time can cause a listener to shut off and ignore what you are saying, because your words will all sound the same like a continuous drone of noise. So when you speak to someone, try to vary how quickly you talk.

For example, if you are talking about something fun or exciting, speak quickly and do so with energy. If you are talking about something serious or factual, speaker slower to emphasize the seriousness of the subject matter.

Avoiding common mistakes

A common mistake that is often made is talking too slowly or too quickly.

Slow speakers for example, are generally perceived as being less intelligent, boring, tired or incompetent. Slow speakers also tend to waffle by going on forever about something when a few words would have been sufficient.

Fast talkers tend to be more interesting to listen to than slow talkers, but only if they learn to pause, listen and have a two-way conversation.

If they don’t pause, this can be very tiring for the listener. It can also frustrate the listener because they will have to struggle to make their own voice heard.

However, with that said, the most effective way to communicate is by talking to someone in a similar way to how they talk to you. So if you are dealing with a fast talker, you should increase the speed of your speech to match theirs.

The same is true when speaking with a slow talker. This is because slow talkers tend to find it frustrating speaking with fast talkers, and vice versa.

2) Project Authority With a Low Pitch

muscular man

Deeper sounding voices tend to command more respect.

Can you imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “I’ll be back” with a camp, nasally and high-pitched feminine voice whilst still sounding authoritative? No, neither can I! High pitched voices are associated with femininity, weakness, submissive behavior, and in some cases, homosexuality.

A low-pitched voice like Arnold Schwarzenegger is interpreted as authoritative, influential, domineering and powerful. Low pitched deep voices command respect and suggest a leadership quality about you.

If you are a male, try to lower the pitch of your voice to make it sound more masculine if it does not already. Many males have a very nasally voice, which makes them sound like they are speaking through their nose. Women do not find this attractive, and prefer a deeper more soothing voice.

For females, a high-pitched voice is fine, as most males are strongly attracted to feminine sounding women. However, if you are in a leadership position, then you will usually find that people will listen to you more, and take what you have to say more seriously, if you lower the pitch of your voice.

This was the case with former British Prime Minster, Margaret Thatcher, who took vocal training to lower her voice in order to sound more authoritative.

3) Vary the Pitch of Your Voice

Just like how varying the speed of your voice can make it sound more interesting, so too can occasionally varying the pitch of your voice. This is known as inflection, and can be used on certain words to give them a different meaning.

For example, consider the sentence “I did not say I stole the money“.

Read this sentence aloud or say it in your head a few times, but each time stress a different word by changing the pitch of your voice using an upward or downward inflection as described below.

Downward Inflection

A downward inflection occurs when you lower the pitch of your voice (make it deeper) on a certain word(s). This communicate confidence, authority and certainty.

Upward Inflection

An upward inflection occurs when you raise the pitch of your voice on a particular word(s). Upward inflections communicate surprise, doubt and uncertainty.

Using inflections allows you to alter the overall meaning of a sentence. Some examples of such alterations are shown below.

“I did not say I stole the money”

  • Leaves open the possibility that you stole it.

“I did not say I stole the money”

  • Implies that you know who stole the money.

“I did not say I stole the money

  • Makes it sound as if stole something else.

Use inflections whenever you can, as they will help to make you a better and more interesting speaker.

4) Control the Loudness of Your Voice

man on megaphone

The volume of your voice can affect the meaning of your words.

To make an impact when speaking, you need to be comfortably and easily heard. Too loud of a voice can annoy and irritate people. Too soft of a voice can prevent you from being heard whilst also conveying timidity and a lack of authority.

The volume of your voice can also be modulated. This simply means raising or lowering the sound of your voice to stress certain words or phrases.

If you want to dramatize a moment and make the listener listen carefully to what you are saying, try lowering the volume of your voice slightly. This will cause the listener to concentrate more deeply on what you are saying and is usually much more effective than raising your voice.

If you want to shock the listener and make sure that they understand a certain point, try raising your voice suddenly. For example, “It was all going so well AND THEN YOU BLEW IT!“ Used correctly, a raised voice can emphasize certain emotional states and project a sense of dominance.

However, do not raise your voice too often, as otherwise you will be perceived as being rude and angry. Rather, use it sparingly and only when you really want to emphasize a point.

5) Sharpen Your Articulation

stereo dials on head

Tune your voice for maximum clarity.

Nothing detracts more from the meaning of a message than speech which is mumbled and cannot be understood. Sloppy speech is also associated with poor education, laziness and nervousness.

If you want to be clearly understood, make sure that you clearly articulate each sentence, phrase and word. Clear crisp words convey confidence, competence and intelligence, all crucial factors needed to ensure that people will listen to what you say and understand it.

In addition to speaking clearly, you should also speak concisely. Never ramble on for longer than is needed. Get to the point and answer the question that has been asked of you.

By speaking less you will also create a sense of mystery about you, which will then stir up a desire in the listener to find out more. This in turn makes you appear as a more desirable and interesting person.

6) Use Pauses, for Impact

james bond

The power of silence is Bond's deadliest weapon.

Bond…James Bond. This famous line from the James Bond movies is perhaps the most well-known use of pausing for impact, and something which most men have tried to emulate at some point in their life!

Pauses create anticipation so that the listener become eager to hear what you will say next. When a listener is hanging on your every word, you can be sure that they value what you are saying and are giving you their full attention.

Pauses can also alert people to pay attention to something, almost as if you had just said “listen to this”. The key to successfully using pauses in this manner, is to pause in front of the point that you want to emphasize. Generally speaking, a 1-3 second pause is sufficient to create anticipation.

The Power of Words

picture of words

What do these words mean to you?

Words are spoken every day, and so are often taken largely for granted. As a result, people throw them about without fully considering the impact or implications of the words they use. The fact is, words are rarely neutral, but instead tend to be loaded full visual imagery and emotional connotations.

In simple terms, this means that the words you use can affect the way a person thinks and the way they feel. The emotional meaning of words, therefore extends far beyond their dictionary definition.

Compare the words “denomination“, “sect” and “cult” for example. All of these words have virtually the same literal meaning. They describe a group of people who share a common religious or spiritual belief. However, the emotional baggage that each word carries is very different.

cult member

Which word is most appropriate: denomination, sect or cult?

When you hear the word “denomination“, most people think of a respectable mainstream religious group. For example, the Catholics or Christians at your local church. The word “sect” however, brings up a different association, something that is more radical and less mainstream.

The word “cult” brings up an even stronger association, such as the “Heaven’s Gate” cult. This cult believed that a UFO, hiding behind a comet, was coming to take the followers away. In order to board the alien spacecraft, the cult members committed suicide.

As you can see from these examples, similar words have the power to uniquely alter a person’s mood, attitude and feelings, even though those words have the same literal meaning.

Positive & negative words

Words can broadly be defined as being either positive or negative. Positive words make us feel warm, confident, secure, optimistic and happy. Positive words are like someone giving you a hug, and then saying how great you are.

Negative words are the opposite. They can cause fear, depression, anger, low self-esteem and anxiety. Negative words are like someone punching you in the face, and then telling you how bad you are.

fist out of page

Words can hurt.

A good example of the use of positive and negative words can be seen with politicians. Politicians will use positive words to describe themselves, and negative words to describe their opponent.

This creates a simple positive emotional attachment to them, and a negative emotional attachment to their opponent.

Attention grabbing words

These are words that immediately capture your attention. They will either make you look at or listen to them intently. Here are some of the most powerful attention grabbing words that are commonly used in advertising:

Benefit, guarantee, money, results, easy, health, new, safe, free, how, to, now, save, fun, love, proven, you/your.

Of these words, the most powerful are the following:

new

People like new things...

If you go on eBay and have a look at some of the listings, you will often find that many items are promoted as “brand new in box” or simply as “new“. The word “new” conveys freshness, cleanliness and something which nobody else has touched.

New is a very powerful and frequently used word in advertising because it is so effective at grabbing your attention. In contrast, its counterpart “old“, suggests something that is worn out, used, dirty or outdated. In the right context however, it can also suggest that something is valuable.

free

...they also like free things.

Free is perhaps the most powerful word of all. Tell someone that they can get something for free, and you are sure to quickly gain their attention. This is why advertisers often use “free offers“, as it allows them to quickly gain your attention which then makes it more likely that you will spend your money.

One of the most common ways that this is done, is to offer a “free gift” when you purchase something. However, if you examine this statement carefully, you will see that it doesn’t really make any sense.

A gift, by definition, is free. It is a gift that someone is giving you without obligation. But because the word “free” is so powerful, adding it before the word “gift” ultimately makes the gift seem more appealing.

Another example of the power of the word “free” comes from research done with promotional items in supermarkets. It has been found that given a choice of three options;

  • Half price
  • Buy one get one free
  • 50% off

The middle option, “buy one get one free“, consistently outperforms the other choices in terms of sales. All of these make the exact same offer, but the words that are used greatly influence the resulting outcome.

Again, what is happening here is that certain words are evoking a certain emotional response. This response then leads to a certain action depending on the word. In this example, the use of the word “free” results in the greatest number of sales.

Other words which are very effective in grabbing one’s attention, are the words “shit“, “fuck” and “sex“. These words also tend to have a shocking effect which can arouse a person and lower or raise their defenses depending on the context in which they are used.

Labeling

Words can be used in the form of labels to create an association between a person and something which they are not.

For example, before the start of World War 2, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party started encouraging the use of words such as “vermin“, “insects“, “pigs” and “garbage” when talking about the Jewish people.

By labeling the Jewish in this manner, the Nazis succeeded in causing the German people to see Jews not as people, but as animals or dirt. With these labels the Nazis also created a negative emotional association with Jews, which then caused people to resent them and even cause them physical harm.

nazi rally

Labels can cause people to do the most unspeakable acts.

Whilst not all labels are as dangerous as those used by the Nazis on the Jews, they can still be extremely harmful.

For example, if you consistently display lazy behavior, then someone may label you as being “lazy“. This label is likely to spread to other people, and once it does, everyone will think that you are lazy and assume that you are good for nothing.

Another example of a label is one which is commonly given to women who sleep with lots of men. Women like this are sometimes called “sluts” or “whores” by other men.

Once this label gets spread to other people, then men are likely to assume that she is “easy” (i.e., willing to have sex with anyone) and so may try to grope or force themselves upon her as a result.

Generalities

Sometimes a persuader will deliberately avoid using specific language. This is often seen with politicians who face mixed crowds with strong conflicting views.

To win over the audience, the politician will use generalities that have positive associations, but essentially, lack any real meaning or substance (e.g., “change you can believe in”).

The purpose of the generality is not to inform, but rather to leave the full meaning to the imagination of the audience. This tactic is used to make us approve and accept something without fully examining the evidence.

Another example could include “the war on terror“. This sounds reasonable, but what does it actually mean? How do you define terror? Who is causing this terror? Terror could mean terrorists, just as easily as it could mean people who oppose the government.

george bush

Politicians often leave their message open to interpretation.

War could mean using the military to attack another country, just as easily as it could mean using the Police or FBI to arrest people in your own country who are perceived as causing terror.

A good generality therefore tends to be short, catchy and easy to remember. It will also evoke emotion in the listener, and be open to many different interpretations and meanings.

Euphemisms

When persuaders use generalities, they are trying to win over their audience with emotionally suggestive words. In some cases however, when the truth would rather be disguised, persuaders may attempt to pacify an audience by taking the emotional impact out of a word.

tape over mouth

Words can be changed to suppress their emotional impact.

The public promotion of war by governments provides many good examples of euphemisms. For example, in 1940 the United States changed the name of “The War Department” to “The Department of Defense“.

The Ministry of Propaganda” was changed to “Public Relations“, after the negative association of the word propaganda with Hitler.

Civilian dead” was changed to “civilian casualties” and later to “collateral damage“, a word completely emotionally removed from the pain, suffering and death caused by war.

During World War I, soldiers were said to have suffered from “shell shock“, a term used to describe the effect of shock waves from exploding bombs on a soldier’s body. This was later changed to “combat fatigue” in World War II, and then to “post traumatic stress” in Vietnam.

These examples show how different, but similar meaning words, can evoke a variety of emotions. So when you want to lessen the impact of something shocking or distasteful, use words which do not evoke strong emotional reactions or associations in the listener’s mind. This way, your words will be accepted more readily and with less resistance.

Antithesis

Antithetical statements are short sentences that are composed of two halves with opposite meanings. Here are some well-known examples:

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind

When the going gets tough, the tough get going

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country

You have most likely heard these statements before, and the reason they are familiar is because antithetical statements are easy to remember which makes them widely used and quoted by other people.

man on moon

It's one small step for man, one...

Antithetical statements are usually short, and approximately balanced on each half of the sentence. People who use them are considered to be sophisticated, articulate and insightful.

This is important because communicators who use words in novel and memorable ways, generally tend to be much more persuasive than those who use bland everyday terms.

Repetition

Research has shown that in order to remember something, we must be exposed to it repeatedly. Ideally, at least three times. The first exposure serves to introduce you to something. The second exposure familiarizes you with it. And the third exposure causes you to think, remember or take action on it.

In advertising, it was discovered that people respond best to messages if they are repeated over a prolonged period of time. For example, an advertisement will be more effective if you saw it on three separate days, rather than seeing it three times on the same day.

repetition

Repetition is often used by marketers to raise awareness of their product.

Repetition can therefore be used to make messages more powerful and more memorable. Using repetition can also make your message seem more persuasive.

Here are some famous statements that use repetition:

Government of the people, by the people, for the people

Abraham Lincoln

Never in the field of human conflict was so much, owed by so many, to so few

Winston Churchill

How to Speak With Power & Authority

man sitting pointing finger

Make yourself heard or your message will be forgotten.

Since virtually everything that you will do in life involves some form of communication, learning how to improve your overall communication skills can have a massive impact on your life.

Below we discuss some of the ways that you can do this, with the aim of helping you to communicate more effectively with those around you.

Start reading more

One of the best ways to improve your communication skills is to read more books. Reading will help to improve your ability to express ideas, whilst also expanding the size of your vocabulary.

Conversely, not reading and watching lots of TV instead, will have the opposite effect,  as television viewing has been associated with a decrease in vocabulary size and a decrease in one’s ability to engage in creative and original thought.

Use strong language

A good communicator always uses words that communicate precisely what they mean.

For example, rather than saying that they “might” do something, a good communicator will say that they “will” or “won’t” do something. Instead of saying “if“, they say “when“, and instead of saying “try” they will say that they “can” or “cannot” do something.

Good communicators therefore always leave little doubt in the listener’s mind as to the meaning of their message, unless of course, they are specifically intending to create that doubt.

Communicating clearly is important because when you introduce doubt into the listener’s mind, you are in danger of losing both credibility and believability. So aim to express exactly what you mean, rather causing someone to guess, and possibly misinterpret, what you mean.

Be a do-er, not a try-er

People who use positive language are perceived as being more action and result orientated than those who don’t. These are the type of people who you can ask to do a job and you know will do it.

Those who use limiting and vague language however, such as “try“, “maybe” and “sometime“, tend to be unreliable, lacking in motivation and will usually not do what they say they will do.

cat sleeping

"I promise I will try to get up, later"

Who would you prefer to rely on? The person who “tries” or the person who “does“?

Display assertiveness

To speak assertively means expressing your thoughts and opinions with confidence and a belief in your right to express them. This does not necessarily mean that everything you say will be correct, but rather, that you are not afraid to express yourself and can do so without apology.

This last point provides a good example of how not to speak assertively. For example, often people will express an opinion only to devalue its importance by attaching an uncertainty to the end of the sentence. A phrase that is often used is “well, that’s only my opinion” or “but I could be wrong“.

assertiveness

A lack of self assertiveness results in weak communication.

Whilst these phrases may be appropriate under some circumstances, using “uncertainties” after expressing your opinion shows both a lack of belief in yourself and in what you are saying. To the listener, these uncertainties make you and your opinions seem less important, and therefore, less persuasive.

So to speak assertively, speak your thoughts and feelings with confidence and recognize your right to express them. Avoid adding uncertainties to the ends of your sentences, as they will degrade the overall value of your message.

Take responsibility

Good speakers take responsibility for themselves and their actions. They avoid the language of victimization and avoid blaming others for past misfortunes. Once you begin to blame other people, you immediately convey the message that you lack the power to control your own life.

Playing the victim, where you talk of past misfortunes in order to gain sympathy, also reveals a lack of self-esteem and a need for external approval.

So to speak responsibly, do not whine or moan about things that have gone wrong for you in the past. This communicates weakness, and a lack of personal control. Instead, recognize and admit your mistakes. This will increase the credibility and believability of both you and your message.

Win-Win

Successful persuaders will always try to find an outcome in which both people benefit. This is important because when a person feels as though they will lose out on something, they become much more likely to resist you and your message.

man covering ears

To persuade him you must first make him want to listen to you.

By creating a win-win situation however, whereby both people each get what they want, persuasion becomes a lot easier and quicker. In order to accomplish this though, cooperation and some sacrifices will need to be made.

So remember, always keep in mind what the other person wants. If you can find a way to give it to them, whilst still getting what you want, you will become a better and more effective communicator.

Speak decisively

Speaking decisively means being a straight talker, getting to the point and avoiding meaningless waffle.

If you want to say something, say it. There is nothing worse than listening to someone go on and on about something when they could have said it in a few words.

Avoid overusing intensifiers

Intensifiers are words placed before a sentence to boost its importance. For example, “I really like ice cream, it’s really good because it tastes really really nice“.

In case you didn’t notice, the intensifier is the word “really”. Overusing intensifiers has the opposite effect of their intended use and serves only to weaken the sentence.

Avoid hesitations and fillers

Uh…well…ummm…. I think the next type of weak language to avoid is ummmm……uh…..ummmm…. oh yeah, it’s hesitations and fillers!

Hesitations and errr…ummm fillers are sounds like “uh” and “um” that you say while your brain tries to come up with an appropriate response.

The most common of these is “um’ which virtually everyone uses, except highly educated and skilled speakers. Using “um” occasionally is forgivable. What is not forgivable however, is someone who says “um” every third or fourth word.

cat ready to jump

Don't hesitate or you might fall.

Overusing hesitations and fillers conveys a lack of intelligence, lack of confidence, uncertainty in your message and an overall lack of basic communication skills.

Minimize tag questions

Tag questions are short questions that you add to the end of a sentence. For example, “that was a good game, don’t you think?” or “this tastes good, doesn’t it?

Tag questions are perfectly acceptable if used occasionally, but adding a question to the majority of your sentences will communicate uncertainty, a lack of belief in your opinions and a need for external approval.

Avoid disclaimers

Disclaimers are short introductory expressions that ask the listener to show understanding or be tolerant of what you are about to say. A commonly used disclaimer is “I am not an expert in this field but…” or “I am not a doctor but…

Disclaimers prime the listener to devalue what you are about to say, even before you have said it. This makes your message seem less believable, which then makes it more likely to be questioned or rejected.

Hedges and qualifiers

When a person is uncertain of something which they are about to say, they tend to use hedges and qualifiers. These are words or phrases that are said before a statement, which suggest uncertainty and a lack of confidence in that statement.

For example, “I sort of like that” or “I think I like that” both create uncertainty in the listener’s mind about you are going to say. If you want to communicate certainty and confidence when delivering your message, you should therefore avoid using such phrases before making a statement.

If you feel the need to use qualifiers, then use more powerful phrases such as “the evidence suggests that…” or “based on previous experience…“.

Another way of conveying uncertainty about your message is to use phrases such as “I know I’m not describing this well, but...” or “this probably isn’t the best way to say this, but…

Again, using such phrases before your main statement will convey uncertainty to the listener and suggest that you lack authority or expertise in that area.

Be aware of the power vacuum

During the initial stages of a conversation both people compete for power. If you do not assert yourself at the start of a conversation, then the power will go to the other person and they will dominate you.

Once you have lost this power, your ability to express your true thoughts and opinions will be severely hampered.

Display integrity

Integrity means doing what you say you are going to do. If a person learns that your word means something (i.e., you will take action on your words), then they are likely to trust and value what you have to say.

However, should a person learn that you do not follow-up on your promises, then this trust will be lost and anything you say in future will be seen as suspicious and unlikely to materialize.

How to Communicate More Effectively

two women standing apart

Sometimes you have to reach out to touch someone.

Effective communication means communicating in a way that people will easily understand. Below are some things to bear in mind which can help you to do this.

Don’t add to the information overload

Every day we are bombarded with new pieces of information, yet how much do you actually remember from the previous day or week? In most cases, the answer is not a lot. Don’t worry though, as this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a bad memory!

Psychological research has shown that because people receive so much information on a daily basis, it is impossible for us to consciously remember every single detail about our lives.

As a result, we tend to remember the things that most stick in our mind. These are usually the things that are important to us or have had a powerful emotional effect on us.

Utilize selective attention

Advertisers know about the principle of selective attention very well. It has been found for example, that when a consumer is bombarded with lots of information at the same time, they tend to focus on just one or two main points.

What this means is that when you are trying to persuade someone, you will increase your chances of success when you limit the number of points that you make. Making too many points is likely to confuse and will dilute the effectiveness of your overall message.

information overload

Information overload can be deadly.

Think of it this way, your message is not really what you say, but rather, what the other person remembers. And people will remember the most information when you limit yourself to 2-3 main points.

Contrast information

One of the ways that the brain deals with large amounts of information is to chunk it together into smaller parts.

For example, if you were presented with the sequence “29407864″, it would be much easier to remember it by breaking it down into smaller chunks. So 29407864 would become 29 | 40 | 78 | 64.

You can use this natural tendency of the brain to chunk information when delivering your message. One way to do this is by contrasting information.

A contrast is a noticeable and obvious difference between two things, for example, between black and white. By using a contrast you can chunk your message into two parts, thereby making it a lot easier for the other person to understand and remember.

Here’s a good example of a contrast used by George Bush:

You are either with us, or with the terrorists

This contrast gives a simple and memorable message by chunking it into two possibilities. Those being, you either support George Bush or you support the terrorists.

Although a two-part contrast is extremely effective when communicating a message, when information is grouped into 3′s, it can also be very effective. For example:

  • 3 Points
  • 3 Arguments
  • 3 Phrases

When making points and stating arguments, three is a number that people can easily follow, understand and remember. When it comes to phrases, three-part sayings are also usually highly memorable. For example:

  • I came, I saw, I conquered
  • Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Reading, Writing, Arithmetic

Using the two-part contrast or the rule of 3′s will increase the amount of information that a person remembers from your message. This will increase the effectiveness of your message and improve your overall communication skills.

Keep it simple

Researchers have found that very rarely do people understand something 100% correctly. This means that for most of the time, most people will misunderstand most of what you are trying to say.

The reason for this is very simple. We are all uniquely different, and therefore, we all think and perceive things in different ways. So whilst I may think that I am communicating to you clearly and in a way that makes sense, you may in fact think that I am talking complete incomprehensible nonsense!

keep it simple shirt

Don't overcomplicate your message.

This is why it is so important to improve your communication skills when persuading other people, as you need to make absolutely sure that the person who you are trying to influence gets your message loud and clear.

If you communicate poorly then you may think that you have told somebody one thing, when in fact they thought that you said something completely different. This leads to confusion and misunderstandings.

Use double clarification

Sometimes saying something once just isn’t enough. As a result, in order to make your message better understood, you may need to use what is known as a double clarification.

This technique involves making a statement, and then repeating the core message of that statement in a slightly different way. Double clarifications tend to be the most effective when they are used as a summary to reinforce certain points that you feel are important.

Here is a summary of the key points for effective everyday communication.

  • Speak simply, clearly and to the point
  • Avoid technical jargon (unless specifically using it to create rapport).
  • Use simple commonly used words that everyone can understand.
  • Use specific descriptive language, rather than vague generalities.
  • Make your words count. Don’t waffle or talk about irrelevant issues.
  • Draw conclusions. Don’t make the person guess what you want.
  • Use metaphors, analogies and stories to make points easily understood.

As a general rule, just remember not to assume that people will always know what you mean or are trying to say. So to communicate effectively, make your message as clear and easy to understand as possible.

Cultural Communication

eye child

Different cultures use different forms of communication.

Whilst all cultures share the same basic emotions, the forms of communication used throughout different cultures of the world varies enormously. What can mean one thing in one country, can often mean something completely different in another.

For example, in North America and Europe, people tend to prefer direct eye contact. But in some Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Thailand, prolonged eye contact is considered rude.

So when communicating with someone, always be aware of the different cultural customs that may exist. This is especially relevant when you are traveling abroad and communicating with people from different countries.

If you are not aware of the cultural differences in how you communicate, you may be perceived as having poor communication skills or as being rude or offensive.

Differences in communication between similar cultures

Even though some cultures may be similar, the types of communication used within those cultures can still differ.

A famous example of how similar cultures can differ in how they communicate, occurred when George Bush Senior toured Australia in 1992 and flashed a “V” sign for victory to the crowd from the back of his limousine.

What President Bush failed to realize, was that the correct way to give this sign (as popularized by Winston Churchill) is with the palm facing outwards. President Bush however, gave the sign with the outside of his hand towards the crowd which in Australia means “up your’s mate” or “go fuck yourself“.

bush backward v sign

President George Bush senior displaying a backwards "V" sign in Australia.

So when communicating with people from other cultures, always make sure that what you consider to be a friendly gesture is not actually an insult to someone else. Below are some other examples of how gestures can vary across different cultures.

OK

ok sign

Sometimes it's not ok.

The ok gesture in America and England is given to mean that everything is ok, well or good. In Latin America and France however, it is considered an insult. Similar to giving someone the middle finger.

Thumbs Up

thumbs up

How rude!

The thumbs up sign in America, and most of Europe, means that something is good or that you approve. This sign is considered rude in many Asian and Islamic countries.

Feet on Table

woman with feet on table

Some people would find this very offensive.

Putting your feet on the table is generally not considered to be offensive in America or England. In Thailand however, it is considered rude to show the soles of your feet.

Curled Finger

curled finger

You're going to die!

Telling someone to come to you by curling your index finger is acceptable in America and England. This gesture is considered rude in many Asian countries, such as Japan. In Singapore, a curled finger gesture signifies death.

Stop Sign

woman giving stop sign

It's my turn to talk now.

Raising your hand up and showing your palm means stop in America or England. In some Asian countries, this gesture is used when asking for permission to speak.

Hands on Hips

hand on hip

Who on earth does he think he is?!

Putting your hands on your hips conveys an open and confident posture in America and England.

In some eastern Asian countries however, this is considered as a sign of arrogance. If this same gesture is done with your hands in your pockets, it is considered to be extremely rude in Indonesia.

Nose Picking

girl picking nose

What?

In most western countries, picking your nose is considered to be vulgar and something which should be done in private. But in some Asian countries, such as China, picking your nose in public is perfectly acceptable behavior.

Note: In China, nose picking is most common amongst older generations. Younger generations tend to be more westernized, and so most do not pick their nose in public.

Male-male Interactions

men holding hands

A man holding hands with another man is normal in some parts of the world.

In most Western countries it is considered normal for two men to shake hands. In some Asian and Islamic countries it is considered normal for men to kiss each other, either on the cheeks or on the lips.

Some countries also consider men holding hands to be normal. In most western countries however, men kissing or holding hands in public would be viewed as homosexual behavior.

How to Become a People Person

group of happy women

Be a person who other people like to be around.

The ultimate aim of developing good communication skills is to interact more effectively with others. But if people don’t like you, then you will find that successfully interacting with others becomes a lot more difficult.

So now that you are aware of the different ways in which communication can occur, we shall conclude this article with some general guidelines on how to make others like you and enjoy being around you.

Accept Them for who They Are

group of friends in circle holding hands

Accept people for the way they are without judgement or trying to change them.

From childhood, we are all very aware when we are accepted or rejected by another person. When interacting with other people, you should therefore make every effort to accept that person for exactly who they are. And do so without judging or putting them down.

The easiest way to show acceptance is simply to smile. When you smile at another person you not only tell them that you accept them for who they are, but you also raise their self-esteem by making them feel good about themselves. This good feeling will then become associated with you, and so that person will want to be around you because you make them feel good.

At the same time, smiling also causes your body to release endorphins which are chemicals that make you feel good. When you feel good, your body language and voice tone will change to reflect this feeling, thereby making you appear as a nicer, friendlier and more confident person.

Say Thank You

thank you sign

Everyone appreciates being thanked.

Showing appreciation when someone helps or assists you is an excellent way to ensure that they will do it again. Appreciation is universal, and so it’s something that can be used throughout all the different cultures of the world.

Be careful not to overdo your display of appreciation however, as when taken to an excess, it can make you appear submissive or manipulative

Give Praise

woman kissing woman on cheek

Praise is a powerful way to shape someone's behavior.

Recognizing when someone has done something well, and then praising them for it, is one of the best ways to develop new habits in people and raise their self-esteem. To do this, you must continually praise the person whenever they do something that you would like to see repeated until it becomes a habit.

If you would then like to maintain that habit, give praise every 2nd or 3rd time the behaviour is repeated. This technique is often used by teachers on children, but it is also very effective in relationships.

In order for praise to be effective however, it must be immediate and specific. If praise is delayed, then the effect of that praise will be reduced. It is also important for your praise to be genuine and sincere, as otherwise it is likely to be rejected.

Give a Compliment

girl laughing

People remember the nice things you say about them.

No matter what country you are in there is one thing that all people like to hear, a compliment! The two types of compliments that tend to be the most effective are:

1) Compliment their personality

If someone you know is a genuinely kind and nice person, tell them what a nice person you think they are and how you appreciate them for being that way.

People are proud of who they are. So if you compliment them on a positive characteristic they have, that person will remember you for your kind words.

Maybe you can remember a time when someone said something nice about you? The same will happen when you genuinely compliment another person’s personality.

Note: With women, especially very attractive women, complimenting their personality is often much more effective than complimenting their looks.

2) Compliment their possessions

People attach great emotional significance to their possessions. The most obvious example of this are men and cars, or women and clothes.

If you compliment a person’s possessions, what you are really doing is indirectly complimenting them. If your compliment is genuine and sincere, then they will like you more for saying it!

In general, compliments work best on people who are not complimented often, or when you compliment something which a person is not used to having others notice.

Compliments are least effective when a person receives them often and expects to receive them. This is because frequently given compliments are seen as less valuable to the person receiving them.

Build a Support Network

lots of faces

Who can you count on in times of need?

No matter who you are, and no mater what you have, at some stage in your life you will require the help of another person. The trouble is, you don’t know what help you will need or who will help you.

This is why it’s extremely important for you to help as many people as you can, because by doing so, you will create a network of people who you can call upon for help and assistance in times of need.

This principle can be seen in the movie “The Godfather” where Don Corleone becomes the Godfather by doing favors for others and then saying “perhaps I will be able to call upon you for a kindness someday?”.

Later, he was able to return to those people when he needed their help, and the more people he helped, the bigger his network grew and the more powerful he became.

When you help people, you must do so with no immediate expectation of return and provide them with the best help that you can, as weak service will ultimately produce a weak support network.

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