Opinions expressed by Minority Mindset contributors are their own.
William’s mother stared at her son’s graded test incredulously. It was marked with so much red that it seemed like it had been used to soak up blood. The ink seemed to mock her parenting attempts. “Will, I told you last time to study harder! I told you to bring home the As and Bs. This…I just don’t understand. How are you ever going to get a good job?”
“Mom?” Will tested in his squeaky boyish voice.
She sank her face into one hand while she held the crime scene in the other. She made a sound for him to continue.
“Mom, you told me to do better, not get As. I got a D, that’s better than the F from last time,” Will explained.
She inhaled deeply, gritting her teeth she responded, “I guess I did…I guess I did.”
William’s mother allowed her frustration to subside as she realized her son was right. He was terrible at Algebra, but maybe his debate skills could land him in a courtroom—ideally as an attorney. As her son was leaving the room she shouted, “No more Ds or Fs! This is an A or B household!”
She hoped the abundant clarity would help her son understand.
Communication is everything, it’s the underlying foundation to every relationship. Friendships, romantic partnerships, and business relationships all rely on a healthy stream of communication. Being able to successfully share our expectations with others allows for things to be achieved as they were envisioned.
Unfortunately, many of us do not communicate effectively. For instance, take William and his mother. If she only told him to bring home As instead of being ambiguous it’s possible he would have done so. It’s highly unlikely, but possible. I’ve put together 5 tips to help you communicate proficiently to get your message across!
1. Be clear and to the point
Be direct and clear. Give your audience a clear picture of what you’re expecting, when you expect it, and how you expect it to be done. This way you’re protected against any ambiguity. Additionally, avoid fluffy corporate language at all costs! Keep it simple.
Furthermore, don’t beat around the bush. Get to the point as quickly as you can. In a world full of buzzing, flashing, and pinging devices attention spans are short. People want the message in one sentence, or in 250 characters or less.
2. Be prepared
If you’re frequently running meetings, interviews, or giving presentations be prepared. I’m sure you remember those high school presentations when a student completely forgot to write down talking points. Even worse are those presenters who only read from a printed sheet of paper or PowerPoint slides. BORING!
Write down 3-5 major talking points on a small piece of paper or index card. Use phrases that trigger the exact thought you want to convey. By doing this you show you have control of the meeting.
Being prepared also shows that you respect someone’s time. You’re not just there improvising, the information matters. Conversely, being unprepared indicates that the topic of the meeting wasn’t important enough for you to have researched.
Shut up. For once, just shut up! It’s easy to talk, talk, talk, and talk. When you do this you’re not really communicating. Speaking just to speak is filling dead air. Conversation is an art in which people express ideas, thoughts, or feelings and notice the natural pauses to expand on what was said. To properly participate you must be receptive to what others are saying.
Listening is absorbing what is being said. When you listen to a business partner or client you can learn a lot. If it’s your business partner you may hear a spectacular idea which the two of you can capitalize on. Alternatively, if it’s your client you may hear a business need that they are completely unaware of, but you can satisfy. It’s imperative to remember that communication is about listening and providing meaningful replies.
Emails and text messages are the life blood of communication. One dumb spelling mistake or grammatical error can make you look like a fool. A consistent series of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and capitalization mistakes will lead to few people trusting your judgment. It could get even worse, people might laugh at you!
Before you send that incredibly important email to your client who makes up 70% of your business, proofread the email. About to show off your presentation skills to a potential client? Double check the grammar in your presentation slides. Sending a text to confirm a meeting? Make sure the message reads “Let’s chat over dinner” instead of “Let’s chat Oprah sinner.”
5. Ask Questions
So, you have to provide an update to a project you’re working on for a customer. Easy enough! Only one problem, you have no idea what the update is about. A million things have changed since you last spoke to your customer, and you are unsure what kind of update he’s requesting. The financials have changed, the direction of the project has changed, and the scale of it has changed.
You could provide an update on everything, spend hours preparing reports, and take hours of your customer’s time. Of course, this adds little value for them. It may even appear that you’re unorganized. On the other hand, you can ask questions about what your customer is seeking.
Always ask questions! It shows that you want the whole picture, and you’re engaged with the person. When you’re fearful of asking for details you won’t be able to provide the value you’d like to.
Be short and to the point. There’s no time to sing and dance around the message, everyone’s already running around trying to accomplish a billion things. Also, make sure you’re prepared for all your meetings and presentations. Have your talking points by your side to avoid awkward lulls and to illustrate you take your audience’s time seriously. Don’t always do the talking either. Listen to those around you. They’ll appreciate it and you may learn something. I’m sure you send a slew of emails and text messages every day, be sure to proofread them. You don’t want to look like you have no idea how language works. Finally, ask questions. Few things are ever clear, so be sure to cut through the murkiness whenever possible.