Does it feel like no matter how much you explain something, people don’t get it? Whether it’s a boardroom, your dinner table, or a stadium full of people, the ability to communicate effectively is an absolute must for success in life. So what do the most outstanding communicators do? They talk less.
There’s a German phrase, “Weniger, aber besser” that in English means “Less, but better”. This is how the best communicators are so “effective”. They talk less, but better. They also listen better in conversation and stick to the point when they communicate.
We Must Talk Less
We were created with two ears and one mouth, we should use them proportionately. The greatest communicators know when to speak and when to listen (they mostly listen). They also know how to use fewer words to get their ideas across. They don’t need the fluff or fancy words; they are clear and crisp in what they say which allows the audience to keep up with them.
“Leaders instinctively sense when to share and when to be silent.” – Skip Prichard
Skip recently did a post on “drowning” the people you’re talking to. His point: sometimes people aren’t ready to hear everything you have to say; you need to know when to dial it back and when to dial it up. If you say it all at once they can’t possibly process it or ask the questions they would like, probably because you covered 12 topics and 63 bullet points without taking a breath!
We Must Listen Better
Aside from talking less, some ways to listen better are:
- Stop thinking of a response while the other person is talking, if your brain is formulating a response you aren’t listening.
- Put down your device. Our attention span is a whopping 8 seconds on average (just one less than the goldfish at 9), anything in the vicinity that can distract you will – especially that mobile device in your palm.
- Pay attention to what people say more than how they say it. Listen for meaning.
- Don’t start talking until the other person has finished (unless they never come up for air, then interject politely). One of my biggest pet peeves is when people try to finish my sentences, or interject before I’ve completed a whole sentence!
When we listen closely we can better understand what needs to be said to truly communicate. Just don’t get caught in the first bullet point above and start thinking of your response while the other person is talking.
We Must Stick to the Point
When you do talk, it should be “less, but better”. Succinctly say only what you need to by removing anything that doesn’t clarify the point. Make sure your audience knows what the point is by repeating it multiple times.
“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.” -Winston Churchill
People appreciate a simple and clear message. None of us like to listen to someone beat around the bush or use lavish words to describe a simple concept. Put things in terms people understand and leave it at that, else you might confuse the point. This is easier said than done. It comes down to your ability to simplify; many people fail to realize that not everything they want to say is necessary.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” -Hans Hofmann
Talk Less to Communicate More
It seems paradoxical, but the less we talk the more effectively we can communicate. It’s simply a matter of listening in order to understand how to convey our message to the audience simply.