If you have watched many political candidate speeches, then you have seen communication techniques about as slick as they get. Whether delivered with dogged authority or in a straight-forward way that gains power through the rhythm of speech, their styles are deliberate. And they suggest a whole lot more meaning than just the words they use.
They don’t just talk. They rally. And they speak directly to their audience. The communication skills of your typical political candidate may be stylist, but they were not necessarily acquired by following a long list of principles.
In the same way, learning to improve communication skills does not necessarily mean adopting an endless set of rules. You just have to follow a few simple guidelines. The following four communication guidelines will keep your skills fresh:
1) Be Clear
Whether in the spoken word or the written one, much can be said for clarity. Simplicity can magnify the power of what you say and how you say it. It doesn’t need the trappings of pretentious importance, or overly-complex jargon. There is enough verbal and written noise out there, so offer a stark contrast with a no-nonsense style.
Know who your audience is and know your style of communication. By understanding your style and habits of communication, you can better train and equip yourself to improve on them.
2) Stay Positive
Speak with a positive tone. It not only puts people at ease, but it also puts you in their favor, making them keen to listen to what you have to say.
Stay confident. That means letting the response be what it will be. If you are sure you have clearly stated your position, then do not let the response affect how you feel about it.
3) Listen Actively
Listen with intent. Keeping your attention focused during a conversation can be difficult, if you are listening passively. Instead, look to see what you can learn through the conversation. Listening actively tells you something about the speaker. Seeing listening in this light can change the way you approach conversation.
Take the opportunity to learn. Perhaps the speaker is giving out important information, or there is some understanding you had not been privy to beforehand.
And being conscious to hear the speaker out, prevents you from forming your rebuttal before they have finished talking; if they have said something unclear, try paraphrasing what they said and repeat it back to them. Active listening also means keeping an open mind and being willing to consider alternate solutions and compromises. Listen with self-control and do not snap react.
4) Learn from Experience
There is no teacher like experience, so it is good to take advantage of your past attempts at communicating. Whether big or small, positive or negative, all instances of communication can be an opportunity to build on. When the communication goes well, let this build your confidence. When it does not, take it as a learning opportunity.
Reviewing your choices and behavior in a past negative or uncomfortable situation will better prepare you the next time around. The best way to assess yourself is by asking questions that acknowledge your responsibility in the situation.
- How did I handle it?
- Did I make my point clear?
- Why wasn’t the outcome positive?
- Could I have done something differently?
Learning to improve communication skills does not need to be a process weighed down by a long list of rules. You only need to follow four effective guidelines mentioned above. Be clear. Stay positive. Listen actively. Learn from your experience. Four simple guidelines by which to conduct your professional and personal life—regardless of whether or not you are out to garner votes.