Recently, I was interviewed by Mitch Mirkin, a health and science writer. He asked me, "In what ways are communication skills different in our personal and professionals lives?" For me, that question is something I've thought about for over 20 years.
Certainly, there are many different situations in which we need to communicate. In the workplace alone, you communicate with coworkers, with clients and customers, at staff meetings, and in presentations. Outside of work we have intimate conversations with loved ones, a casual chat with an acquaintance, connect via social media, and perhaps even speak in other public settings. So many situations to juggle!
So, how do you remember how to act when? That was the essence of the question from Mitch.
I strongly believe that no matter what the setting of communication, there are only three overarching principles—what I call the “trinity of effective communication.” Be Clear, Concise, and Compelling. These three principles define effective communication, regardless of the context.
Now, to be a clear, concise, and compelling speaker, you need to use language that is understood by the receiver. The emphasis is always on the receiver. You need to take into consideration the audience—what they know or don’t know. It’s really the audience that determines what you’ll say to get your message across. You need to ask yourself: Who is this audience? How will this audience react to the message? What does this audience already know about the topic? What will this audience find interesting? How might this audience object to the message? You may think what you’re saying is perfectly clear, but if you don't use the language of the audience, if you don't use examples that resonate with the audience, if you don't tailor your content so that it's relevant to each specific audience, you will not reach your communication goals.
This principle works regardless of whether you’re giving a presentation to 500 people or casually talking to your spouse. Consider your relationship: if you’re giving a presentation, are you an expert in your field with respect from the audience? Are they knowledgeable, or do they need an explanation of the basics? If you’re talking to your spouse, what is the background about this subject you’re discussing? Do you have to clarify some points? Are you on the same page about this, or do you have to mend some bridges?
This leads to another point about being compelling: we’re most influenced by those we know, like, and with whom we share similar objectives. Your audience needs to trust you, to know you’re genuine. If you don’t already have that kind of relationship (perhaps if you’re giving a speech), you can develop this trust through stories. You may think facts and figures will convince, but they rarely do. They might help back up your position, but people will allow themselves to be persuaded by your facts and figures only after you’ve made an emotional connection with them.
In effect, all speaking is “public speaking.” It’s not the situation per se (professional or personal) that dictates how you adjust your speech, it’s the audience. Think about your conversation partner. Create communication that is clear, concise, and compelling for them and you'll be an effective communicator.
This is Lisa B. Marshall changing organizations, changing lives, and changing the world through better communication. If you’d like to learn more about leadership, influence, and communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk.
As always, your success is my business!
P.S. If you are a Toastmaster, look for full interview in the July 2016 issue of Toastmaster Magazine.