The ABC’s of Communication

Sonya Barnes August 25, 2019

Have you ever travelled someplace that you didn’t know the language?  I have and it can be a very intimidating experience.  I recall times of hand gestures, broken words from the language I do know, and looking for another language we may coincidentally know to try and communicate, only for something to have been “lost in translation”.  Yet, even when speaking the same language, we often have communication issues for a variety of reasons.  That can lead to lost time, lost money and lost opportunity, not to mention the frustration from the experience.

Communicating with others is a key to being successful in any endeavor.  I have been blessed to have many leaders in my life and careers to teach me ways to cut down on miscommunication and increase successful outcomes when communicating with others.  When I taught leadership to middle schoolers, I broke it down into these three basic principles to make it easy to remember and execute and many of them found themselves going from being terrified to talk to a crowd to commanding the attention of those they were speaking on front of.  By knowing what and how they were going to share an idea, their confidence got a boost, making the information they shared that much stronger.  So, I thought I’d share these ideas with you here since many people have a fear of talking to others, even if they do so on a regular basis.  These can be applied to any situation whether it is deciding lunch plans or saving the world from impending doom.  So, let me break it down for you.

Articulation   In its simplest definition, speaking in a way that is fluent and coherent.  When you are speaking, whether it is to one or one thousand, young or old, you want to make sure your message is being shared in a way they will understand.  Before you speak or write, it can be a good idea to jot down your ideas you want to speak about and outline a few key words you want to share with your audience.  Again, be sure you are using language they will understand—don’t use fancy technical words if it is not an experienced worker.  On the other hand, don’t oversimplify what you are saying either.  New people will need to learn terminology, so just be sure it is used in a way that can be figured out or that you explain it somehow.

Brevity   Keep it short, sweet and to the point.  By nature, we love to tell stories and share personal experiences to help our audience understand what we mean.  Sometimes we may have an audience that appears confused or disengaged and we find ourselves continuing to talk, thinking it is due to lack of understanding.  A best practice to follow is to break it into steps, give an example, have a handout or checklist if it is more than three steps, and then be available for further explanation after the meeting or during the process to help those that may need more or don’t know what questions they have until they begin the process.  Many times, a presenter can do a great job activating an idea and building engagement and momentum, but drain the excitement by holding a meeting too long and not letting those folks get going. You want those folks to get going as soon as possible since they will help your team reach a goal.

Clarity   It is important to be clear about what you mean.  I have sat in meetings that the speaker never really stated the point of the meeting or training and we had to ask or guess at the end.  That meant that nearly everything we heard and learned during that training was lost and had to be asked about or retaught later.  This was a waste of everyone’s time and can easily be avoided by bringing things back to your main point regularly, especially if it is new.

These steps can be implemented in all aspects of life, whether it is a conversation with someone, teaching someone a new task or practicing tasks that have already been taught, or even persuading an audience to purchase or choose a product.  However, and with whomever, you are communicating, if you add these three principles into your pre-planning, you will find yourself becoming much more successful at it and, by extension, at ease with speaking to people because it will become less stressful.  Happy communicating!

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