Listening and talking are both part of verbal communication. In addition to verbal communication, do not forget the non-verbal communication signals. These are all critical to effective training delivery.
How much time do you think you spend communicating with others during the day?
70% of your total waking time is spent communicating in some manner. Of this time you spend communicating, you spend approximately 16% reading, 9% writing, 30% talking, and 45% listening.
These percentages will vary from person to person. For example, some people may spend much more than 30% of their time communicating by talking and much less time listening! Does this sound familiar?
We also respond to visual images as well as written or verbal information as shown in the table above.
Looking at these statistics, it makes even more sense that we should strive to improve the way we communicate. Our communications skills play an important part in our success, both at work and in our personal goals in life.
How we express ourselves verbally changes from person to person and situation to situation. There are no hard and fast rules that dictate the right or wrong way. Everyone has their own communications style, and there are nearly as many variations as there are people.
We do not address an audience at a sales meeting at work in the same way that we talk to our loved ones at home. Both situations have something in common, though. If you believe what you are saying and communicate in a sincere and honest manner, in a style that you are comfortable with in the way you express yourself, people will warm to you, trust you and communicate with you. You must not hide the real you – very few people can communicate effectively in a style that has been copied from someone else, if that style does not fit naturally with their personality.
How many of us have tried to do this? To communicate in a manner or style that just does not come naturally, makes it so difficult to get the message across effectively and sincerely.
It is not what you say, but how you say it. Think of the quality and speed of your voice when communicating. The volume and intonation also have positive or negative impacts on your audience. The subtle use of certain words gives rise to different or implied meanings, for example, ‘these’ people or ‘those’ people.
Remember that what you say, the way you say it and the back up from your facial expression and body posture can make it or break it. Have you ever been angry and tried to express your concerns with a large smile on face and compassion with no passion in your voice? If someone is not telling the truth about something, they may not make eye contact when stating the so-called ‘fact’.
Concentration and Confusion
Communications can be one of the greatest strengths of an organisation or one of its biggest weaknesses. To impart any new information, be it the format for a review of the job structure and pay scales to training the staff on new equipment or software, communication is the key. Keeping our language simple and unambiguous can be a challenge at times. Logical format, short sentences, simple explanations are excellent tools to aiding understanding. Otherwise you may end up having to unravel a famous quote such as this one (attributed to Robert McCloskey):
So how can we improve? There are many communication and listening skills exercises and games available. Let’s take a brief look at three of them.
How many remember that from childhood, but never considered it as a communication and listening skills exercise that adults would benefit from? It is, so long as it is introduced in the fun spirit intended and they are prepared to take a step back in time to their childhood.
Each action is stated by the trainer and if the action is preceded by the words, “Simon says….”, then the audience should carry out that action. Here’s an example, “Simon says put your hand on your head”. The trainer should also carry out all the action. If for the next example the instruction is just “Stand on one leg”, you may find someone gets caught out and carries out the action despite “Simon says” not being at the start of the instruction. To make it a little harder, imagine the trainer is standing facing the audience and states “Simon says put your right hand on your head”. If the trainer does this action, placing their right hand on their head will appear reversed to the audience and a few may mirror the action by putting their left hand on their head rather than carry out the verbal instructions they were given. Communication forms part of the way we learn and adults learn by not only reading or hearing information, they benefit greatly from observing and doing to reinforce learning.
The Invisible Gorilla
This is a selective attention test in the form of a video that was created by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons (http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/videos.html). Sometimes you can concentrate so hard on one specific task that you forget or become oblivious to other implications and events around you. This is an excellent ice breaker and attention retention device for the trainer.
Tell, Show, Do
If you get the group to follow your instructions and you do not show them what to do, merely tell them, it will be surprising how many variations in results you see. For example, tell everyone to close their eyes and follow your instructions, then start giving the instructions about what to do with a piece of paper, such as fold it in half, fold the top left corner down to the bottom right and so on. This also works well with written instructions and an exercise involving folding napkins in a decorative style. It is important to write clear, concise steps, especially if your audience cannot ask questions otherwise they may misinterpret the instructions.
Trainers use ‘Tell’ to impart the essential knowledge, either in verbal or written format. This is not enough for adult learners and as the majority of us respond to visual images more than the written or spoken word, demonstration or diagrams provide the ‘show’ element. Finally adults learn best by doing, and of course practice makes perfect!
When communicating with others, either formally or informally, think about what you say, how you say it and your non-verbal communication. Allow time for the message to sink in, listen to any comments or questions and respond accordingly. Remember to watch, look and listen for the audience’s verbal and non-verbal signals so that you ensure your message is received loud and clear!