Communication is one of the most demanded skills in companies, and one of the most helpful abilities in life. Focusing solely on “your level” of English is a mistake, as having a certificate does not necessarily make you an effective communicator. When you communicate powerfully, you are able to:
- Transmit your ideas successfully to the other person.
- Truly understand what the other person wants to communicate to you.
- Connect with the other person.
This requires practice, confidence and humility. Delivering and receiving messages and connecting with the person or people in front of you, is much more important than speaking in a “perfect” way.
Obsessing too much about grammar and vocabulary can be an obstacle to effective communication.
To communicate like a pro, there are seven “C” adjectives to bear in mind. If, with practice, you become these adjectives when communicating, you will notice that your relationships and results will also improve. Let’s look at these seven “Cs” in the context of a presentation.
Have you ever felt that speaking a language well means speaking quickly? Not so. Most of the best communicators speak slowly, enunciating every word, so that the audience understands. When someone tries to speak fast to show that they are fluent in another language, they often cause the opposite effect, as the audience gets lost or bored. Speaking unhurriedly is a sign of confidence.
In order to speak confidently, it is important to also be clear about the message you want to transmit and what for. What, specifically, do you want to achieve through the communication? If you doubt what you are going to say, you will reveal that insecurity to your audience. On the contrary, if you are clear about what you want to transmit, why and what for, the how will follow. Therefore, it is better to spend more time organizing your thoughts and working on your confidence than obsessing about your limited vocabulary and possible grammar mistakes.
When I was at school, my teacher used to say to me: “Why say in one hundred words what you can say in ten?” Once you are clear on your message, the next step is to deliver it in a concise way. This means using clear arguments, some good examples, and dropping irrelevant add-ons. To help you with this, you can use connectors.
For example, which is better?
“Recycling is a huge issue in our company, so today we’re going to think a lot about this, and hopefully come up with some solutions, because it’s about time we did something about this, like creating some programmes”.
“Today I am going to talk about recycling in our company. Firstly, I will talk about the current situation. Secondly I will propose some solutions, and finally I will open up a discussion about the next steps.”
Abstract: “Taking breaks makes people more productive”. Concrete: “A study shows that the employees at this company are 11% more productive if they have a break every hour”. When you are not sure of your message or you lack information, there is a tendency to hide behind abstract language. However, a skilful communicator says specifically what, how, why, when, where and what for.
Aristotle highlighted the importance of “ethos”, credibility in front of an audience. If you aren’t credible, the other people will not believe you and therefore will not be persuaded by what you have to say. One way to lose credibility is by stating inaccurate information. These days you have to be very careful, as the Internet lies in wait to “disprove” (because the Internet is always right, isn’t it…) anything someone in your audience has doubts about. As such, it is fundamental that you check your facts and only communicate correct information.
Moreover, make sure that you speak to your audience in a way that they will understand. To do this, it is essential that you know who your audience are. If you talk patronisingly to them (you know more than they do), or assume they know very technical jargon and they don’t, you will lose your credibility.
If you deliver a logical message that you really believe in, then you will be coherent. Aristotle’s “logos” invites you to convince people through a logical argument, using facts and data. Even more important than this is his “pathos”: the emotional side. As Maya Angelou said: “People will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. If you feel strongly about something and your are able to transmit those feelings in an empathetic way to your audience, people will connect to your message and to you. If, on the other hand, you do not really believe what you are saying, your audience will notice this through your body language.
You have a clear message that you feel passionate about. You communicate it in a concise, concrete, correct and coherent way. Your audience feels emotionally and rationally convinced. You smile and say thank you very much, while your audience thinks: “And what now?” Remember to include a call to action at the end of your communication. Otherwise, the ideas discussed will stay as just that – ideas. When you have practiced your communication, make sure you haven’t left out any vital information, data or calls to action.
Finally, don’t forget to be polite. If you do all the above but forget courtesy, you are likely to break the connection with the audience. Did you know that saying “two” by sticking two fingers up in a “V” shape in the UK is offensive? When communicating with people from another culture, make sure that you find out what courtesy means for them. And remember: Treat other people as you would want to be treated. This includes listening carefully to their body language and words.
Communicating is an enjoyable adventure, an art to be practiced and improved, with everything to gain. Thus, next time you hear yourself talking about “my level of English”, take a step back and smile at the wider picture. It is much more motivating!
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Guest contributor: Emma Claire Davis
Coach profesional (ASESCO), formadora e historiadora. Fundadora de Coaching For Talent. Graduada con honores en Historia por la universidad de Warwick (Inglaterra).