Strong communication skills are at the heart of achieving great success in today’s world, both professionally and personally.
This is not a new concept. One can look back at history and see that the most accomplished professionals, business leaders, politicians, and celebrities usually succeeded – at least in part – because they knew how to communicate persuasively.
Effective Communication is Even More Essential to Success Today
But in today’s world effective communication skills are no longer simply an asset but essential to success in almost any field.
This is because our world is now shaped by almost constant communicating both online and off.
There are very few moments in the course of a regular day when most people are not engaged in some form of communication, even if it’s just sitting behind a computer or being absorbed in a smartphone.
Despite the growing importance of communicating effectively, five extremely common mistakes abound that limit people’s abilities to be influential communicators.
1, Not Listening
Many people assume the first step to being a good communicator is knowing how to write well, speak persuasively, or understanding a lot about a specific topic. This is wrong.
The first step to any form of effective communicating is always listening. Communication is a two-way process, and if you aren’t paying attention to what people in your midst are saying or thinking, you can’t respond or participate effectively.
Active listening is a skill mastered by the best communicators in the world. They understand their audiences, big or small, and build powerful relationships by doing as much listening as they do expressing themselves.
By always listening, the best communicators are also always learning.
2, Not Being Succinct Enough
In today’s short-attention span world, getting to the point is crucial. Without the ability to be brief, your audience will move on to something else.
For any kind of effective storytelling, online or in-person, the key is to develop what you want to say and then be ruthless about editing it down to its bare minimum – and then editing it down again.
You want your audience to get the gist of what you are communicating quickly and easily without having to digest complexity or distracting details.
The best communicators are constantly reminding themselves that less is more.
3, Being a Know it all
Whether online or off, many people feel compelled to participate aggressively in every interaction by commenting on almost everything. This is usually a mistake unless you are tasked with leading a forum or discussion.
People want specialized knowledge and insights, but they don’t want verbal diarrhea.
The best communicators know when to pull back. Even if they know every answer or have an interesting perspective on every subject, they pick their moments sparingly based on when they have something particularly valuable to contribute.
4, Not Being Prepared
To communicate effectively you need to know what you are talking about.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is communicating before they are prepared.
Even if asking a question, you should be thoughtful before words start flying out of your mouth or off of your keyboard.
Speaking, writing, or posting about a topic before you know what you are really talking about is a big mistake in an age when audiences crave specialized knowledge, wisdom and thought leadership.
Knowing your subject well makes it easier to communicate your ideas to others. By zeroing in on the topics you are intimate with you can develop content, ideas and opinions that provide value to your audiences.
The more you communicate from a knowledge zone, the more you shore up credibility and position yourself as a valuable source of information and perspectives.
5, Speaking, Typing and Texting Before Thinking
Our world is diverse and fast. We are surrounded by people of different opinions, backgrounds and cultures.
With the speed of online and offline communication, it is easy to rush to communicate without understanding the implications of what you are expressing.
This can lead to offending or angering audiences which can generate conflict instead of engagement.
By speaking or typing too quickly without thinking, you can easily communicate something you’ll regret later because you worded it poorly or didn’t consider its implications.
Pausing, taking a breath, and then intentionally deciding what you want to say is the best method of communicating and influencing.
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