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Effective Communication: How Not to Be Misunderstood

Effective Communication: How Not to Be Misunderstood

Communication is an important tool that plays a defining role in developing an understanding with everyone around us, on an everyday basis. Whether it is a simple task of writing an email or giving a presentation, communication adds on to the productivity and progress. Therefore it is important that when a message is delivered there is no miscommunication between the sender and the receiver. To avoid misunderstanding one has to make sure that the message is clear and simple.

Though we have access to the best of medium, yet many times we fail to deliver an error free, perfect message during verbal and written communication. As per a recent survey recruiters admitted that communication skills play an important role when choosing managers. It plays an important role in being successful in today’s world.

One of the most common reasons that leads to miscommunication or misinterpretation of a message is the use of complicated sentence structure. A message is easy to understand when the sentences are short and crisp. Use of unnecessary fillers like kind of, sort of, maybe, etc bring in vagueness to the message.

5 Killer Skills to Make Your Message Clear

When communicating via a written medium, make sure to read and re-read before finalizing the copy/email/text. Once you are done with the proofreading, see if there are other interpretations to the message and whether you would like to eliminate them or not. Here are few more points one should follow for effective communication.

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1. Make the complicated simple. Make the simple simpler.

Always try to simplify your message. Bring down your sentences to the simplest degree to avoid ambiguity in your messages. If the words and sentences are simple the probability of understanding the message is higher. There is no point in highfalutin sentences, if the receiver doesn’t decodes the message correctly.

2. Start as a good listener.

Listening is another important aspect of being a good communicator. You cannot deliver a perfect message until you are a good listener. Without listening you will not know what are you being asked for.

3. No jargons. They hinder understanding.

Make sure you do not include vocabulary that can be difficult for the receiver to understand. Using jargons and technical terms can create misunderstanding if the decoder is not familiar with those words.

4. Make it concise and precise.

Brevity is the soul of wit as well as communication. Whether you are delivering a speech or writing an application or forwarding a formal text, always keep it to-the-point. Avoid unnecessary words, phrases and sentences.

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5. Check your spelling.

Never underestimate the effectiveness of spell-check. What you write, says a lot about and spelling error is something you would not want to begin with. It never leads to a good impression if your email or letter has spelling errors.

7 C’s to Ensure You’re Nailing the Killer Skills

Moving ahead, there are 7 C’s that are essential if you want to avoid misunderstanding in communication. There are applicable to both written as well as verbal communication.

Clarity

Clarity makes the message understandable. The message should be focused to one point and should not be catering to multiple things at once. The kinds of words you use and the type of sentence structure you form decides if the message is clear or not. Use words that are most familiar, instead of “Domicile” use “Home”

Conciseness

Concise means short and brief. A concise message is the one which communicates with minimum words and is not redundant in nature. The advantage with conciseness is that it pays attention to what is important and eliminate everything that’s unnecessary. It saves the time of the sender as well as the receiver. Eg- instead of using “in due course” use the word “soon”.

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Concreteness

Concreteness stands for strength and if you want to deliver a strong message you have to provide it with a solid foundation. Concreteness is important if you do not want your message to sound vague. You can do that by supporting your message with facts and figures. This makes you message more meaningful and effective.

Correctness

Like we have already talked about, in order to avoid misunderstandings, a message should be free from grammatical and spelling errors. Along with that, one also has to make sure that the fact and stats mentioned in the message are accurate and should be misleading to the receiver. Correctness of language plays a key role in avoiding misunderstanding in communication.

Coherence

Misunderstanding occurs when there is no consistency to the message that is being delivered. The receiver should be able to easily understand the message and that happens when the message remains focused and does not go off-topic. Bad Example: Being an excellent Doctor, I am sure you can help us. Good Example: As you are an excellent Doctor, I am sure you can help us.

Completeness

It is important that the ongoing communication should be complete. Incomplete messages can easily be misunderstood. White communicating, always make sure you provide all the relevant information to the receiver. Completeness not only make the communication strong but also enhances it. All you have to do is, answer the Who, What, Where, When, What and How of the situation.

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Courtesy

The element of courtesy bring in positive to the message. If the receiver knows that the sender is being polite and courteous he would always try and understand the message with a positive mindset.

Take Care of Your Ideas And Their Delivery

When you successfully send your message across, you cover your ideas effectively. Taking care of minor things can help you in delivering a message without any misunderstanding.

To achieve effective communication, all you have to do is making sure there are no communication barriers hampering the effectiveness of the message. Along with this, it is important to understand your target audience. After all, communication, being a dynamic phenomenon cannot be restricted to fixed format and rules.

Featured photo credit: Romain V via unsplash.com

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Lisa smith

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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