by Steve Adubato, PhD

Spring is in the air. What better time to offer a fresh list of communication tips and tools that this column hasn’t touched on before? Here goes:

--Be consistent in your communication. How many times have you heard someone say one thing and do another? Or, say one thing on a subject and then three days later say something totally different without telling you why or what caused them to change their mind? It’s maddening. What is even worse is that the communicator acts like you are the one who is crazy. In the future, if you’ve changed your mind on a subject or have come across new information, share that with your audience before communicating a new message. Be a more consistent communicator.

--Don’t be a one-way communicator. Stop dominating the conversation. Talk about maddening, there are so many professionals who love to hear themselves talk so much that they are usually communicating on a one-way street. Listening? They have never heard of the word. Next time you are tempted to get on your soap box and tell someone or a group of people everything you think you know on a subject or why you are so right, STOP and ask a question. Find out what THEY think. Remember, great communicators live on a two-way street. They talk and they listen and they don’t dominate conversations.

--Think about your goal before you communicate. Too often, as communicators we talk without knowing where we are heading, and then we wind up on a dead-end. Consider this. Ask yourself where you’d like to end up or exactly what you want to achieve and then shape and mold your communication around that goal. You will find that your language is more focused, your message more clear, your examples and facts more precise. Think about the end before you begin.

--Frame your communication from a more positive perspective. Instead of simply saying; “The problem with you, Bob, is that…” Try to begin your feedback by saying; “Bob, I understand where you are coming from, and I want to share with you my perspective…” Acknowledge that Bob has a legitimate point of view, even if you don’t agree with him. Give him some credit. There must be some positive attribute to what he is saying. Look for something good in other’s communication and then start your communication with that. You will be surprised at the reaction you get.

--Consider the “So what?” question when communicating. So often, when we make a presentation or try to convince someone of our point of view, we don’t step back and ask; “If I were in the audience right now, how would I answer the question ‘So what?’” Meaning, “so what” does this mean to me? Once you answer that question, you will become more audience-centered in your communication. If you can’t answer the “so what” questions, so much of what you have to say will fall on deaf ears because in the mind of your audience, so many of them are thinking to themselves “so what?” It’s a lot better for YOU to think that as a speaker and answer it, and then shape your communication in response.

--Try to avoid using the “never” or “always” argument. It’s not easy, I know. In an argument, when the “you never” or “you always” statement gets thrown in, nothing ever good comes from it. Things like; “You never help me when I need it…” or, “You always try to pick a fight with me…” These statements trigger unnecessary conflict. Instead, smart communicators say, “There are times when…” Simply put, avoid making broad, sweeping generalizations that you don’t actually mean.