Archives For Communication

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What makes a great communicator? What separates the best from the rest? What is it about their persona or message that moves people and creates action?

I would suggest that it all starts with a mastery of and a comfort with the spoken word, along with the ability to express ideas clearly. I would also suggest that a high degree of sincerity and trustworthiness is likewise applicable. Finally, it’s always helpful to know what you’re talking about.

Here is a list of 10 people from the 20th and 21st Centuries whom I would suggest belong on any list of great communicators. They are in no particular order:

  1. John Wooden. One of the most decorated coaches of any sport, Wooden helped transform the lives of hundreds of young men that came into his basketball program at UCLA. He is remembered not only for winning 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years, but for the discipline he demanded from himself and his players.  Wooden was renowned for his short, simple inspirational messages to his players, including his “Pyramid of Success” book.
  2. Winston Churchill. At the onset of World War II, England was in very real danger of being invaded and overrun by the seemingly invincible Nazi war machine. Churchill inspired his island nation not only with his memorable, magnificent words, but with his stubborn determination and indomitable courage to repulse the Germans and see the war through to a successful conclusion. And in the end, he was the leader who prevailed.
  3. Billy Graham. This Southern evangelistic preacher has taken his uplifting message of the Gospel to the world’s masses, in the most literal of senses. Dr. Graham has spoken to and influenced millions of people, of different cultures and faiths, of all ages and backgrounds. He has been friend and counselor to presidents and paupers, and has often served as a steadying, comforting influence during times of national tragedy.
  4. Ronald Reagan. The 40th President of the United States was often referred to as The Great Communicator. A trained actor, Reagan served as Governor of California before seeking national elective office. His wit, humor, and insight were used to great effect in his speeches, and his personal charm played no small role in many of his legislative successes. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” is one of his more famous quotations.
  5. Jack Welch. One of the Captains of Industry, this Chairman and CEO of General Electric took his famous company to record levels of growth in revenue and profits. Welch’s messages were replete with references to the need for unremitting continuous improvement, and his successful Six Sigma initiative within GE was, among other processes, copied by many business leaders around the world. He earned a reputation for his brutal candor in meetings with executives.
  6. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Dr. King’s message of nonviolent social change brought to the American public’s consciousness the pressing need for equality of all people, regardless of race. Dr. King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial has been elevated to one of the great pieces of oratory in American history. His ability to articulate the desires of minorities for social and economic justice, and the rightness of the cause, became the pivotal driver of the 1960s civil-rights movement.
  7. Walter Cronkite. Journalist Cronkite was often described during his days as evening news anchor at CBS as “the most trusted man in America.” From his nearly tearful reporting of the news of JFK’s assassination to his eventual description of the war in Vietnam as unwinnable, Cronkite served as a primary source of weekday news to millions of Americans. “And that’s the way it is,” was his trademark sign-off at the end of his newscast.
  8. Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister is a strong, passionate leader with an unwavering commitment to the survival and strength of the Jewish state. Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister born in Israel after the establishment of the state. His oratory skills are considerable, as is his ability to argue a point gracefully while pointing out the errors of those with whom he disagrees.
  9. Oprah Winfrey. According to some sources, media-icon Winfrey is the most influential woman in the world. Her self-improvement and self-help themes often characterize her talk-show content, much like group-therapy sessions. She has overcome adversity at many points in her storied life, and her often emotion-centered show content has dwelt with her many struggles.
  10. Mrs. Margaret Davis. My wonderful high school English teacher. She was simply the best. Do you have a memorable teacher you could add to this list?

The communications skills (and occasional struggles) that I write about in these posts are clearly identifiable in my main character, Conor Rafferty, in my novel That Deadly Space. Find it on Amazon by clicking here.

 

JFKWhile a picture may be worth a thousand words, those words will no doubt come in handy if the picture is distorted or poorly understood. After all, the most effective way to communicate is through speech.

The four language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing are all interconnected. Proficiency in each skill is necessary to become a well-rounded communicator, but the ability to speak skillfully provides the speaker with several distinct advantages. The capacity to put words together in a meaningful way to reflect thoughts, opinions, and feelings provides the speaker with these important advantages:

• Ability to inform, persuade, and direct. Business managers, educators, military leaders, lawyers, and politicians, among others, seek to develop their speaking skills to such a level that they are transformed into master communicators. Speaking clearly and confidently can gain the attention of an audience, providing the golden opportunity for the speaker to make the message known. Wise is the speaker who gains and then holds the attention of an audience, with well-chosen words in a well-delivered presentation, forming a message that is effective, informative, and understood.

• Ability to stand out from the rest. When one thinks of speaking skills, one tends to think of it as a common skill. Think again. The ability to stand before others and speak effectively is not an ordinary ability. Many people are deathly afraid of public speaking; others have little ability to form thoughts into sentences and then deliver those words in a believable way. The bad news is that at any given moment the world has precious few with the speaking talents of, say, Winston Churchill or John F. Kennedy. The good news is that a speaker whose skills are honed and developed with constant application and hard work can stand out.

• Ability to benefit derivatively. Well-developed verbal skills can increase one’s negotiation skills. Self-confidence is improved. A growing sense of comfort comes from speaking in front of larger and larger audiences. A reputation for excellence in speaking can accrue over time, thereby imparting a certain credibility to the speaker.

• Career enhancement. Employers have always valued the ability to speak well. It is, and always will be, an important skill, and well worth the effort in fully developing. In my latest novel Dare Not Blink, main character Dave Paige has consistently moved up the corporate ladder due in part to his ability to present his ideas clearly and persuasively.

Speaking skills are important for career success, but certainly not limited to one’s professional aspirations. Speaking skills can enhance one’s personal life, thereby bringing about the well-rounded growth we should all seek.

The communications skills (and occasional struggles) that I write about in these posts are clearly identifiable in my main character, Conor Rafferty, in my novel That Deadly Space. Find it on Amazon by clicking here.

 

7054375-podio-de-roble-aislada-sobre-fondo-blanco-con-microfonoWebster’s defines communication as “an act or instance of transmitting.” Communication is about effective expression, and is very much a skill that can be acquired and improved. For these purposes, we will concentrate on verbal communication, and specifically the improvement thereof.

Communications skills are necessary for success in virtually any endeavor. Those who possess high levels of skill in communicating with others have an advantage in the marketplace of information and ideas. Unlike many other skills, effective communicators can take their expertise anywhere. Like any other skill, it must be practiced diligently to maintain and improve.

While there are numerous methods for improving one’s communications skills, here are 10 suggestions for your consideration:

1. Always design your message to fit your audience. This focuses the use of your words and builds discipline and economy.

2. Always assume a lack of clarity. Whether providing verbal instructions, giving a performance review, or chairing a meeting, always ensure that your communication removes any confusion or ambiguity. Repeat as needed. Repeat as needed. Did I mention repeat as needed?

3. Give verbal presentations. Remember the book reports you used to give in class? The more you did, the better you got, right? Whether it’s a PowerPoint presentation on sales growth or a lecture on foreign affairs, get up in front of an audience and speak. Learn to deal with and overcome the nerves that precede; it’s rarely a fatal condition.

4. Become a better listener. Some of the best communicators are some of the greatest listeners. Conversely, some of the poorest communicators are often some of the worst listeners. Make a conscious effort to become a better listener. Listening is more than an interlude between your own sentences. Hear your audience. I assure you they will notice.

5. Get feedback from others. Ask friends or colleagues to critique your speaking for both content and delivery. Do you show impatience or frustration and thus limit your effectiveness? Are you too condescending or too inhibited? Ask for candid, constructive criticism. And don’t get offended; get better. Put the feedback to good use.

6. Find your voice. Pay attention to the tone of your spoken words. Modulate the pitch and volume of your voice, as appropriate. Choose your words wisely and enunciate them correctly. Develop a style of speaking that fits you.

7. Observe others. Find speakers who impress you with their abilities and study their differing styles. How well do they use humor? Do they show emotion? Are they inspiring? You don’t have to copy them, since you need a style that fits just you. You can certainly borrow, however. And you certainly should.

8. Make good eye contact. Look at your audience, whether an assemblage of hundreds or a single individual across a desk. You can become far more aware of how your message is being received by looking at, rather than looking past, your audience. This is common sense but so very often uncommon practice.

9. Be passionate. This is not to say you should be obnoxious or all-knowing. In fact, it is almost always better to be humble. It is to suggest, however, that your audience should feel your energy and enthusiasm, as appropriate.

10. Keep speaking. Keep developing your skills. Keep building your confidence. You will reap what you sow in this area of your life, as in others.

Good luck and good communicating!

The communications skills (and occasional struggles) that I write about in these posts are clearly identifiable in my main character, Conor Rafferty, in my novel That Deadly Space. Find it on Amazon by clicking here.