Resolve To Communicate More Effectively

by Stephen Boyd | January 31, 2004

Nothing affects the quality of our lives more than our skills in communication. Let’s resolve to improve our communication skills in the new year. One of the great communicators in American history, Daniel Webster, once said, "If all my skills were taken away from me except one; the one I’d want to keep is the ability to speak, for with it I could regain all the rest." Here are some simple suggestions on how to create more powerful communication skills in 2004.

Determine to listen more than you speak. Some pundit remarked, "The only reason we listen is because we know we get to talk next." Let’s change our attitudes. Value listening first when you are conversing. Engage in a conversation and have as your main goal to listen to what the other person has to say. Make it easy for people to talk to you by making eye contact, nodding your head, looking pleasant, and leaning forward. Don’t be distracted by things going on around you.

An excellent way to enhance your listening is to ask open questions. Questions such as the following are best to encourage the other person to talk. "How do you feel about this…?" "What would you do to solve the problem?" "What do you think about…?" "What do you mean by…?" With each question answered you have more information and with more information you will make higher quality choices and decisions. When you feel you just have to talk, ask one more question and listen to the answer.

Resolve to think before you speak. Spend time in intrapersonal communication (talking to self) before you engage in interpersonal communication (talking to another person). We’ve all wished that we could have listened to one more sentence before we jumped in with a comment. Intrapersonal communication will encourage waiting just a little longer before speaking. The more important the conversation, the more vital it is that you spend time thinking about what you will say. This skill is especially important if you are very emotional about the content of the conversation. When emotions are high, communication is low. You need a cooling off period to think when emotionally involved in a conversation. There may be times when you actually want to script out what you might say and practice it aloud.

Be concise. Some people take forever to provide a simple answer. If you have a reputation for verbosity, people may not listen to you carefully. Make your comments short and to the point. The structure of talking should be your point and then your support for the point. If you can provide a one-word response, do it. If you are concise your words will have more impact on others. Thinking through what you are going to say will contribute to conciseness.

Finally, act in ways that indicate that you enjoy communicating with the other person. Speak with vocal variety. Smile. Use gestures to describe and reinforce your point. Show an interest in the other person by staying on the topic and making your feedback relevant to what the person just said.

Near the top of any list of qualities of a good employee you will find communication skills. You will be a more valued person as you continue to improve your ability to communicate.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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