We will show you how this works. The good news is that you already have the ability to become a master communicator – now it’s time to unleash that ability!
The word ‘communication’ stems from the Latin communicare, which means ‘to share’. Communication is the art of sharing information. To communicate effectively, you need to understand not only how you communicate with others, but also how you communicate with yourself.
You process information with all five of your senses. Sight, Hearing, Touch, Smell, and Taste. But there is also a ‘sixth sense’, as it is known, which is your intuition or gut feeling.
To communicate well with others, you need to understand how they are processing the information around them.
Similarly, it’s important to understand how you process information, or how you present external information internally to your brain.
How Do You Communicate?
To become a master communicator, you need to think about how you communicate.
Sometimes when we believe we,re ‘communicating’, we’re actually just ‘informing’. While the act of communication involves all participants in the conversation to be engaged and sharing ideas, opinions, and experiences.
The act of informing, however is the simple distribution of information, the sharing of facts and figures, or one person’s opinion, with no engagement or back and forth.
For example, say your company’s annual report has just come out, and things aren’t looking great. Your CEO might choose to simply ‘inform’ you by emailing the report with a short summary of the facts and figures.
Alternatively, He could choose to ‘communicate’ the report by holding a meeting where the report is explained and the floor is opened up to ideas on what the facts and figures means, and how the company might act as a whole to improve.
Though ‘informing’ can be useful in a situation where all you need is information, ‘communicating’ is much better for sharing ideas and engaging others.
How Do You Listen?
To really listen to someone is to listen with the intention of truly understanding. It’s not about listening to be polite, pretending that you’re listening, or focusing on what you want to say when the other person has finished speaking.
In our section on listening, we’ll walk you through the different levels of listening.
Are you asking the right questions?
Asking questions is easy. Asking the right questions demands training. Questions are a great way to get the of qualitative information that makes the communication effective.
Depending on how you’re asking the questions, you will learn different things.
If you’re asking closed questions that only can be answered by ‘yes’ or ‘no’, you might not get much information. Many parents have been frustrated by the answer they receive when they ask “Was school good today?”
On the other hand , closed questions can be useful when you need a simple answer and then want to move on, such as ” Are you coming to the party on Saturday?”
Are You Observant?
We start communicating as soon as we meet someone – long before we start talking to them.
The moment a person is in front of us, our senses start picking up information about them: what do we hear, smell, sense, and see?
This information is then referenced with our previous experiences to decide how we should react toward the person. This can be a useful process, as it can prepare us for the situation, but we should be cautious about relying too much on it.
Our brains have a tendency to take shortcuts and over-interpret the information at hand.
For instance, if you’ve had a single unpleasant experience in the past with a person with certain traits and /or looks, your brain’s interpretation might be that all individuals with features similar to that person should trigger an unpleasant sensation. It’s not necessarily true, but your brain might trick you into thinking it is.
By learning to body language, you gather information about others before they say a word. The best tools to use for studying body language are simple curiosity and observation!
How Much Do You Influence The One You’re Communicating With?
You influence the person you are communicating with by the way you ask questions, how you listen, how you talk, and how you use body language.
The more attentive you are to how you act when communicating, and the more you reflect upon what your actions imply, the better communicator you will become.
For example, if you look away while talking to someone, it could easily be perceived that you are not present and don’t care what the other person is saying.
By training your ability to be more attentive, focused, and present when communicating, your overall communication will be improved.
The Secret Language
Our main way of communicating is nonverbal. This means that our language primarily (up to 80%) consists of forms of communication other than what we are audibly saying.
Modern human, homo Sapiens, emerged about 200,000 years ago, but we have only communicated through language(as we know it) for the past 80,000 years. Before that, we used other means of communicating.
Nonverbal communication is how we use signals other than words to communicate. Some examples of this are facial expressions, hand gestures, head movement, proximity to the other person, sounds (like laughter), and poster.
Research in this area shows that regardless of where we live or what language we speak, we have the same basic expression for joy, sorrow, anger, fear, astonishment, and disgust. And it’s not just about facial expressions often when we are expressing emotion, our whole body gets involved.
” Nonverbal communication is the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless (mostly visual) cues between people. it is sometimes mistakenly referred to as body language (Kinesics), but nonverbal communication encompasses much more, such as the use of voice (paralanguage), touch (haptics), distance (proxemics), and physical environments/ appearance”.Encyclopedia of Communication Theory
The more curious we are, and the more we observe, the better chance we have of gaining insight into someone else world, which is a valuable way to better communicate.
But nonverbal communication is not an exact science. If you see someone crossing their arms, it doesn’t automatically mean they are skeptical or unreceptive. It could also mean that the person is simply resting their arms, or thinking about what is being said.
However, studying someone else body language and nonverbal communication can open help you get more information, which you can follow by asking questions that may lead to a better understanding of the person.
Things to consider in regard to nonverbal communication:
- Nonverbal communication happens without you being aware of it, which means that you communicate so much more to the world around you then you might think.
- The better you are at observing nonverbal language (both from you and others), the better communicator you will become.
- nonverbal communication is connected to the limbic system, the part of the brain that deals with memories and emotion.
- This part of the brain reacts much quicker than the ‘thinking’ part of the brain, the neocortex, which means that studying the non-verbal/limbic reactions we get from others can give us greater insight into what they are really thinking.
- People communicate a great deal on an unconscious level and often send ‘signals’ they’re not even aware they’re sending.
The Same All Over The World
After many Journeys of scientific exploration and observation, Charles Darwin published The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, in which he concluded that the facial expression used by humans (even some animals) to convey emotions are the same.
International studies by psychologist Paul Ekman has shown that, regardless of religion, culture, language, or background, we all speak in the same way when it comes to happiness, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, and astonishment.
In general, body language is very similar all around the world. But that doesn’t mean cultural differences don’t exist- they absolutely do. For instance, in India shaking your head means ‘yes’, while the other same exact head movement means ‘no’ in much of the Western world.
The reason for this is that the body reacts to what is happening around it. Just Like animals, We humans have protective systems to keep us from danger so that our species can evolve.
These engineer systems are not something we think true or even need to consider – they are just there to protect us on a daily basis.
The limbic system
The central part of the brain is known as the limbic system and, to simplify, you could say it’s task is to keep us alive and manage the 4 F’s: Fight, flee, food, and fornicate.
The Limbic system consists of:
- The hippocampus: Hre, the brain store experiences from life, our memories, and emotions.
- The Amygdala: This is our guardian, the part of the brain that protects us by being observant of any dangers that might occur. The amygdala sends signals to different parts of the body to have us ready in case of a ‘fight or flight’ situation. If we get scared, the body’s first reaction is to freeze, and if it doesn’t work, we run away. If that doesn’t work we must stay and fight. The amygdala’s preferred method of staying safe is to freeze, as that could help us avoid detection. You may have experienced this reaction if you have ever gotten frightened while watching a horror film, during a game of Hide and Seek – you freeze.
We all have a subconscious defense system whose sole purpose is to protect us. This is obviously a good thing, but it can also be problematic, is the limbic system acts on previous experiences.
This means that our limbic system reacts as if we are in danger and triggers our flight mechanism when we need to do something that might be unpleasant, but not actually dangerous or life-threatening, such as giving a speech in front of a large crowd.
Practice Reading Body Language
During the next few days, carefully observe what others do and how they behave. At home, at work, on the bus – everywhere.
Try to see what you think a conversation is all about by studying how people react and use their body, even if you can’t hear what they are saying.
After a little practice, you will get access to a very powerful communication tool that will help you communicate better with different individuals.
Start practicing right away!
The 4 Levels of Listening
” We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”Epictetus, Ancient Greek Philosopher
Two Millennia ago, the ancient Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus wryly suggested that being blessed with two ears and only one mouth, we should listen more than we talk.
Listening more than you speak is a good way to operate. But did you know there are different ways of listening? We have defined four different levels of listening below.
Level 0: You’re not listening
Sometimes, we devote our full attention to something other than the person talking. It could be that our mobile phone or computer attracts our attention, or simply that our thoughts vendor off. A Consequence of this is often that we make a comment in the wrong context, or don’t have a clue what the other person just said.
Level 1: Inner Listening
We commonly listen using ourselves as a starting point. We listen through our own filter, and what we hear are the things that remind us of experiences is we’ve had ourselves.
We eagerly wait for the opportunity (i.e. a pause) to give our side of the story or share our experience. Our unconscious self searches for experiences to relate to and this search process results in inner listening, based on our own experiences.
Level 2: External listening
Most of us have had the experience of being so consumed by a story that our inner dialogue disappears, Thus disconnecting the inner listening filter mention in level 1. At this level, the speaker has the full attention of the listener.
We sit, leaning towards the speaker, on the edge of our chair, as if we are ready to take off and dive into the story! Our complete focus is on the world is being spoken. A common element of this behavior is to ask questions about the story being told. This kind of focused listening is known as ‘external’ listing.
Level 3: Empathic listening
At level 3, we are still listening without our internal filter, but now we are listening to more than just the words – we are listening with all of our senses. Empathetic listening means that we also observe unspoken communication, Such as body language and tone of voice.
This level of listening involves using the communication signals the speaker sends out to interpret what is being said and respond in an appropriate way.
How to become a level 2 and 3 listener
So, what kind of listener are you? Ask the people you regularly communicate with to see how they view as listeners. If people commonly accuse you of not listening or ask” did you hear what I just said?”, you most likely aren’t naturally a level 2 Level 3 listener.
Regardless of what level you listen on, the four pieces of advice below will serve as excellent reminders to help you become a better listener:
State of mind: Make sure you are in a good state of mind and that you are free of destruction so you can listen in a focused way without letting your mind wander off.
Focus: Decide that you should focus when you listen- sometimes simply deciding to do something makes it much easier.
Take notes: Write or take mental notes about things you want to remember during the conversation, so you can devote your brainpower to listening, rather than worrying about recalling them later.
Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes: Think about the person you are listening to. Why are they saying what they are saying? How do they communicate (body language/ tone of voice) apart from what is being said? By trying to answer these questions, you are on your way to becoming a more empathetic listener.
What Questions To Ask, And Why?
Humans are naturally curious, and we are constantly gathering information. One of the best ways to get information is to ask questions. Questioning helps us think in new ways, creates new synapses in our brain, and increases our understanding of what’s going on around us.
By asking new questions and regularly changing our perspective, we are able to solve problems. Think for a second about which group of humans learns at incredible speeds? Children, of course!
And how do they do it? They are curious, and anyone who has spent time around them knows that they ask questions, constantly!
Below are four examples of different type of question you can ask, depending on what sort of information you after:
Open-ended questions are used to start a conversation and find out what people think. Good words to use for this are: ‘what’,’why’,’how’,’describe’,and ‘tell me’. The beauty of an open-ended question is that the reply cannot be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Some examples of open-ended questions are:
” What happened at the meeting?”
” How was the party?”
” Why did he react like that?”
” Describe what happened?”
Closed questions are used to test your understanding, conclude, make decisions, and set frameworks. These questions often result in ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or a very short answer, such as quantitative description.
“If I do this, will I get a bonus?” (Yes/No)
“As we now have all the facts on the table, can we make a decision?” (Yes/No)
“Who is the President of the United State of America?” (There is only one answer)
“How much does that soda cost?” (The answer will be a quantitative description:”$2″)
Leading questions are often used in sales situations, but also when you want the discussion to take a certain turn. These questions often a built-in assumption and the question leads to a certain answer. Alternatively, the question is framed with two ‘options’ that actually lead to the same on answer/result.
“This is great, isn’t it?”
“When do you want the goods delivered – tomorrow or next week?”
“Should we go for option number 2 then?”
Rhetorical questions are used to engage the listener. They aren’t really questions but rather claims that are framed and perceived as questions.
“Wasn’t the show fantastic?”
“Isn’t it wonderful how this artist uses the color green in this painting?”
Dare to ask!
It can feel awkward to ask questions of others, especially if you feel you should already know the answer. As most of us have 24/7 access to the internet, the art of asking questions might soon become a thing of the past, because you can always find an answer on Google in a matter of seconds.
” He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”Chinese Proverb
As awkward as this exercise might feel initially, it will eventually make you comfortable with asking questions. Pick a moment in the day where instead of using your smartphone or computer to find an answer, you ask someone. It could be a stranger at the bus stop, a colleague, are even your boss.
Don’t get caught up in the idea that your question needs to be interesting or spectacular – start with something simple like, ” do you know of a nice coffee shop nearby?” or ” Could you show me how to create a formula in Excel?”
You might be pleasantly surprised at how willingly and greatly people will help you. As you get more comfortable with the activity, try to increase the complexity of the questions, so that you can eventually start asking questions you normally wouldn’t dare. For example, with a bit of practice, you might find yourself in a meeting at work, asking a question that everyone is ‘expected’ to know the answer to, but no one really does. Not only will you gain respect for putting yourself out there, but your colleagues will also be grateful that someone finally asked.
Summary: Become A Master Communicator
- Communication is the art of sharing information. The word comes from the Latin word ‘communicare‘ which means ‘to share’.
- Our primary way of communicating is nonverbal. This means that up to 80% of our language consists of forms of communication outside of what we are saying. This made up of our tone of voice, body language, touching, facial expressions, and more.
- Research shows that regardless of where we live or what language we speak, we have the same expression for happiness, sorrow, anger, fear, astonishment, and disgust.
- The more curious we are and the more we observe, the better we get to know others, and the better communicators we become.
- To communicate really well you need to be a good listener by listening ‘ Tibetan Hath ma empathetically’.
- You have two ears and one mouth so listen twice as much as you speak!
- There are different kinds of questions you can ask, depending on what kind of answer or information you need. Examples of this are open-ended questions, closed questions, and rhetorical questions.
- Dare to ask questions – it will enrich your life and give you unexpected help!
Learn more about being social by reading this article “Become a Social Star with 3 simple steps“.