As promised, we’re shaking some cobwebs and questions out and offering answers to readers.
Common to all your questions, posed privately and in seminar situations was the strongly voiced belief that communication was the most important ‘thing”.
Q : How can I communicate better to succeed?
Communication is an awfully complex word. It is the exchange of information or ideas but what do you really want?
What will you be happy to have accomplished? From there, match the mode of communication to transmit your message. Is it phone, in person, a letter or an email?
You may find that your own definition of ‘good communication’ varies from situation to situation. Your answer may lie in the TYPE of communication you want to be good at.
Factual intelligence gives you confidence in work email, reports, speaking opportunities and more. For this you simply need to GET the SKILLS you need and strengthen your weak bits. Correct grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary go a long way to presenting you well to others. Learn it in books, online courses, a class or exercises from the first time you learned English – just do it again and again till it makes sense or at least feels more natural.
Emotional intelligence helps you transmit your own messages to suit the situation or personalities and interpret other people’s messages. For this you’ll need an understanding of relationships. My own view as a writer has lead me to see that people function in relation to each other, just as words relate to each other in any given sentence. Their meaning is revealed in their context.
Being smarter in interpersonal communication – the sharing of information that goes on between people and the way it is done may be your answer here.
Get clear on your thinking and your expressions of it will follow. If you are not getting the responses you want, write it out privately to yourself – on paper, in great detail and at length – write lots and for a few days in a row. Where and how and when did communication not go as you wanted? Once you find the honest answer, fix it!
Everyone: locals, immigrants and even practiced coaches, writers and speakers like me must undertake this challenge.
I found myself in such a challenge when I moved from Winnipeg to Vancouver. Despite being a communication specialist, it was a bit rough not having familiar touchstones to rely on or for feedback.
Imagine the adventure in a new language as well as location!
Q : How can I improve my English?
Learn your language basics. This goes for native speakers and those new to English speaking, reading and writing.
Language evolves and grows to adapt to the group that is living it – age, occupation and peer groups too. Your answer is to stay current and active. Live and practice your language skills.
New to English? I advise my students to listen to increase their experience of English. Tune your ear by listening to topics you enjoy and you’ll retain more of the language and be more comfortable when it’s your turn to speak or listen to other people. Choose books on tape, CD or MP3 and radio.
Watching movies? Older films and TV shows feature slower and clearer speaking. Your bonus is a better understanding of popular culture as well as hearing and seeing a language ‘live’.
Q: I get nervous when I don’t understand everything that is said. How can I add to the conversation?
Here’s the deal on participating. First you listen and pay attention to what people are talking about. If you don’t understand something, it’s OK to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that clearly. Can you please repeat it so I don’t miss your meaning?”
Usually people talk about what interests them and will be happy to repeat it. When they do this, they usually use everyday verbal language. So, listen for the structure we learned in school, but be alert to local phrases and references from sports, culture, art and the news around you in that particular community or profession. Soon you’ll be ‘speaking their language’ and be ready to contribute too.
Q : I worry that my accent spoils my chances of good conversation.
Personally, I am a fan of accents because in my 25 years as a public relations specialist I looked for things that would differentiate my clients from others. Our special features are what make us memorable.
I do understand that when we just want to fit in we might feel vulnerable by sounding so different. Others frustrated, blame their accents for not getting a job or turning away possible friends. Your answer lies in being patient with others, but also being clear on what you offer.
EVERY ONE of us has an accent – to someone’s ear. Give people a reason to see past your charming accent to you and your message.
If you are very self conscious, or are not speaking CLEARLY then you should take measures to modify, or relax your accent so that you can make your contribution in your community or at your workplace can be heard.
Q What I really need is a job. I go to networking meetings when I can but no one is really helping me.
Fair or not, sometimes we must gather the energy to meet people more than half way. Even in situations where we feel at our greatest need, it is still wise to work to get people’s attention with a clear and positive message.
More on networking do’s and don’ts and ‘secrets’ in future columns. For now, do keep in mind the attitudes and suggestions given in previous columns:
Circulate. Listen. Greet people appropriately. See how you can be of service. Be clear about what you offer. Be clear about what you would find useful. Pick ONE thing to ask for specifically. Everyone is busy and they have their own goals, so keep it light but follow up. Smile and remember to say thank you. Someone has shared themselves and their time with you.
VIP: Our very important position. Sometimes a family, an agency or an “angel” help us, but very soon we find ourselves on our own. Shopping. Working. Studying. Hoping for the opportunity to meet a friend. No matter how much money or support we have, each of us must find a way to connect to an individual or group.
For this we call on the connective power of communication. More power next time!
According to the Oxford Dictionaries the word has its origins in late Middle English. It’s earlier from is Old French comunicacion and from the Latin verb, communicare or ‘to share’.
Merriam Webster’s easy definition for English learners:
a)the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else
b) a message that is given to someone: a letter, telephone call, etc.