Be A Better Communicator

How To Win Friends, Influence People, And Speak Better
 How To Win Friends, Influence People, And Speak Better

College is all about stepping outside of your comfort zone and evolving into the person you more accurately view yourself to be, removed from the labels or judgments you may have unfairly assumed during high school. You’ll have an opportunity to interact with more people, from a greater diversity of backgrounds, than ever before (and maybe, ever again).

Here’s to you doing it right.

Not because we don’t trust you. But because there’s a fine art to doing it that, your character aside, can significantly influence how people respond to you. You can be the person who talks too much, too little, or too inappropriately. And again -- this has nothing to do with your character. Rather, you’ve simply never had an opportunity to refine your speech mannerisms, as you’ve likely never needed to.

Here are 10 tips to be a better communicator.

  1. Keep your environment in mind. Depending on the small group or individual you’re talking to, consider what their background is, or what the context of the conversation is. If you are in a technical environment, try to simplify or illustrate your ideas with creative language. If you are hoping to motivate, spend time considering how to best explain your purpose, or better yet, the outcomes of those ideas.

  2. Master timing. Standup comedians have Master’s Degrees in timing. Well-timed pauses during a presentation, conversation, interview or other circumstance do as well, if not better, than a void filled with a ramble or more noise. Feel out your audience so you know when is a good time to pause, move on to another topic, ask questions, or reiterate a point. Keep context in mind particularly with this one, as technical conversations or more serious presentations will require it.

  3. Remember it’s two-way. You’re not on stage giving a monologue. Ask questions and seek feedback. Learn how to listen.

  4. Always keep it extemporaneous. Lawyers are trained to do this naturally. When you see a lawyer in court, or when you’re watching any law-related show on Netflix, you’ll notice that when lawyers are presenting, they’re not reading from notecards, or repeating what was memorized word-for-word. Rather, the lawyers have become extremely well informed on a series of topics and discussion points, so that they can speak on the point at length, comfortably. This flexibility makes you appear to be a more confident, smarter, and more natural speaker. When it comes time for questions, you won’t be left like a deer in headlights.

  5. Learn storytelling. People remember stories more than they remember anything else they’ll intake in a day. That’s why the best best movies and books, articles, presentations, and even advertisements have a great story as their foundation. People are more easily persuaded when there is a story involved.

  6. Understand nonverbal communication. You’ve heard the quote. Something like 60% of what’s interpreted comes from the nonverbal cues, gestures, and body language you put forth. Adopt proper posture. Avoid slouching, folding your arms or making yourself seem unavailable, closed off, or appearing smaller than you are. Instead, fill up space. And don’t forget to maintain eye contact.

  7. Start and end with key points. Most don’t realize how effective this actually is, especially for those who may have a tendency to ramble. If you can “sandwich” what you say with the key points you’re trying to get across, your listeners’ comprehension will go way up. Blank halfway through or go off script, as long as you close with the same key message you started out with, listeners are likely not to notice.

  8. Try the PIP approach. This was devised by experts from the big consulting firm McKinsey. The idea is that you structure what you intend to say around the topic’s Purpose (P), Importance (I), and Preview (P). For example, you’ll lead with the purpose of your speech, presentation, or point, and then share why it is important -- why is it relevant to your audience, why should they care? Review what possible outcomes there are, both good and bad. Finally, give a preview of what will be further discussed. Using PIP to frame the intro to your presentation will make everyone feel more relaxed about what’s to come, because they’ll know exactly what to expect -- and they’ll look forward to it.

  9. Keep it simple. Remove the jargon, flowery words, over-explaining. While it may feel good to sound poetic or appear smart, you’re not making yourself any more likable to your audiences.

  10. Find your own voice. As much as everything we’ve listed above is important, it doesn’t make any sense to take into practice if it feels uncomfortable, unnatural, or not authentically you. When you’re speaking with friends, notice when you fall into a place that feels “just right.” Or even when you’re presenting to a group, consider the last time you felt most at ease -- and think about what exactly you said or did that made it so. Was it the conversational nature? The topic at hand? Whatever happened before the event that put you in the right mindset? Find your voice, and cultivate it. Use language that's distinctly your own, and let your values come through. People want to listen to someone who is being real.



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