For one person, communication might represent personal connection. For another, it might be a simple transfer of information. We all give different meaning to what communication is for us.
There are also different methods of communicating that are happening simultaneously. There is body language, personal energy, the words we use, how we use our voice etc.
Regardless of the meaning you give it or what your style is, you should realize that you are communicating at all times—even if you don’t know it.
Here are 10 proven techniques I’ve used to help people develop good communication and awareness across the board:
1. Start with being present.
We are distracted—by everything! Recent statistics show the average attention span is as low as eight seconds and dropping. Thoughts and stresses, iPhones, TV, Internet, newspaper and magazine headlines are all competing for our attention and they are winning. Realize that the present moment is all you really have. Know that at this moment, you are planting a seed for the future. Distraction leaves openings for miscommunication. Start with being present to what is in front of you.
2. Check your tone.
Like most of us, you may not even be aware of how you sound to someone. Voice tone and delivery are a big part of our communication, so bring awareness to it. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Tone can make the difference between being perceived as caring or condescending.
3. Know your desired outcome.
Before you engage in any communication, be aware of what it is that you want. Rather than getting caught up in reaction, be proactive. Sometimes you may need to take a beat to bring some awareness to your ultimate outcome. Great relationships make everything easier for you. And in order to develop great relationships, you must have good communication. In other words, pay attention to your ultimate desire and not just each interaction.
4. Create commonalities.
You will get further, faster, when you find ways to relate to each other. Look for similarities in anything. Even in relationship conflicts, relate to someone from experience and open up to show that you are like them. People like other people who are like them.
5. Mirror body language to build rapport.
Just like a mirror reflects the object in front of it, you can do the same in order to develop another form of good communication. This technique is called mirroring. What this does is subconsciously create a commonality or likeness between you and the person you are communicating with. Don’t make it obvious, but subtly start to emulate their body language from breathing pattern to positioning to eye movements.
6. Buffer criticisms with positives.
Developing good communication skills means knowing how to deliver information. When in a position where you are critiquing someone, always lead the criticism with a positive acknowledgment. This opens the person up to you and shows them that you care. Deliver the critique and follow it by more positive praise.
7. Stay on top of it.
Don’t leave things hanging. Effective communicators make people feel secure. Create ease by circling back and closing any gaps. Developing good communication means that you not only communicate clearly, but are the owner and in charge of whatever you are communicating. No one wants to feel like the other person has dropped the ball.
8. Engage with hooks.
Engage people by speaking to what will somehow benefit them. This is referred to as a hook. The more you are aware of someone’s needs, the more people are open to you and will better receive you. Find a hook that grabs attention, then proceed.
9. Listen to understand.
We tend to listen for the next opportunity to speak. Even if the person you are communicating with doesn’t consciously see that, they will feel it. Instead, listen to really understand what someone is saying. If you don’t know, ask in a way that shows you are interested in where they are coming from.
10. Pick up on cues.
Knowing when to approach someone, when to wrap up a conversation, or how to deliver information will help you become an effective communicator. Always pay attention to who is receiving your message. Is it a good time? Are they open? Are they in the best mood to hear what you have to say? These are cues to pay attention to. Before you initiate communication, make sure it will be heard.
The most valuable thing an experienced person has is their experience. People make mistakes, learn from them, and adapt their life around them to become better people. Those people would then tell tales to others to help teach those lessons so that others would not have to make the same mistakes.
People still tell these stories today but in a slightly different format — they use speeches to express their experiences. Here are some valuable life lessons you can learn from some of the greatest inspirational speeches:
1. JK Rowling teaches us to not fear failure no matter how bad things become
It is a well-known fact that JK Rowling’s now-famous Harry Potter series was turned down by several publishers before it was finally picked up. Those publishers are likely kicking themselves in the pants right now. However, before that, JK Rowling was in a fairly dire situation and was on the brink of failure. Despite being turned down time and time again, she kept trying. Her efforts paid off. Harry Potter is now a ubiquitous character in today’s world culture. Despite failing over and over again, Rowling kept trying and fulfilled her dreams. You can watch her deliver some valuable life lessons in her Harvard commencement speech video above.
2. Steve Jobs teaches us to never settle
Steve Jobs had a fairly tumultuous life. He co-founded Apple, was kicked out of the company, came back, and then re-defined the mobile phone space with the iPhone. Even if iPhones aren’t the rage they once were, its iconic value is forever written in stone. One thing Jobs never did was settle. He lived life on his own terms and was rewarded for it by being dubbed one of the most revolutionary voices in technology of our time. In the Stanford commencement speech above, Jobs explains how you should never settle for what someone else wants out of your life. It’s your life and you should do what you want with it.
3. Admiral William H McRaven teaches us to make our beds every day
Anyone who has gone through the basic training of a military service will tell you it’s pretty difficult. However, every seemingly obnoxious step is actually a life lesson in disguise. This even applies to flawlessly making one’s bed every single morning. As Admiral William H McRaven teaches us, recruits are taught to make their beds every morning to remind them that even the little things in life matter. After all, how can you be expected to handle the biggest obstacles in your life if you can’t even handle the small and the mundane like making your bed every day? You can watch the entire speech in the video above.
4. Author David Foster Wallace teaches us that we’re a part of a greater existence
David Foster Wallace found fame in 1987 with his book The Broom of the System. Nearly 20 years later in 2005 he game a commencement speech at Kenyon College that is worth listening to at least once. In his speech, he reminds us that was are but a part of a huge, dynamic, ever changing interaction of life forms. In order to truly experience life, we need to leave our personal bubbles and interact with others even if it’s in an unpleasant way. Wallace states, “It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.” You can watch the whole speech above.
5. Stephen Colbert teaches us that life isn’t something you can plan
If there is anyone who knows about improvisation, it’s comedian Stephen Colbert. In his commencement speech at Northwestern University in 2011, Colbert reminded students that you cannot plan life. Life throws too many curve balls. There are too many unpredictable things that can happen. The most successful and happy people are not those who have a plan, but those who can roll with the punches and overcome the obstacles. He goes on to site his time as an improv comic and how all of the actors working together to create a scene out of literally nothing are all working for one another. He states that like improv comedy, you don’t know what happens next in life. You just make it up as you go along. You can watch the whole speech above.
6. Kurt Vonnegut teaches us to not sweat the small stuff
Some of our younger readers may not know Kurt Vonnegut. He is a famous author that found of of his success during the middle of last century. In 1999, Kurt Vonnegut was at Agnes Scott College giving a commencement speech. During the speech, he mentioned that in order to live a more complete life, people needed to let stuff go. He argued that you cannot reasonably expect others to forgive you for your mistakes if you cannot forgive others and that you cannot live life fostering a personal vendetta against others.
7. Neil Gaiman teaches us that success can be distracting.
Neil Gaiman is most known for his work in a number of literary mediums including journalism, comic books, and novels. In 2012, Gaiman gave a speech at the University of the Arts where he talked about success. He stated that when you become successful, you may be unintentionally swayed from performing the actions that made you successful. Gaiman recalled his early success and how he felt pressured to answer emails all day long and it actually prevented him from writing as much as he wanted. So he reminds us to keep doing what makes us successful and to not let others get in the way.
8. Barack Obama’s life lessons teaches us that you really can beat the odds
We know that not everyone likes Barack Obama but that doesn’t mean the man can’t deliver an amazing speech. In this 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convenction, Obama reminds that it is possible to beat the odds and become something great. He cites his own upbringing as an example and how he was never expected to make it as far as he did. It shows that when you’re passionate about something and when you try hard enough, you can accomplish almost anything. It’s important to note that Obama talks about this in 2004 and would become the President of the United States just four years later.
9. Robin Roberts reminds us that we each have the courage to overcome challenges
Robin Roberts knows a thing or two about courage. She is a breast cancer survivor and has done battle with a rare blood disease called myelodysplastic syndrome. Her sister once had to donate bone marrow just so Robin could remain alive. She was also ESPN’s first African American broadcaster in the early 1990’s. She’s a woman who works in an industry predominately populated by men. So when Robin Roberts takes the stage at the ESPYs and delivers a short lecture on having courage, we would do well to listen!
10. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us that some things are more important than success
We all know the story of Martin Luther King Jr. So much so that we have a day of the year to celebrate him as a national holiday here in the United States. Most of us have listening to segments of his famous speech where he told the world about a dream he had. The main message of his famous speech is that racial inequalities needed to end and he was absolutely right. However, he also reminds us that there are things that are more important than success such as equal rights and treating each other with respect and kindness. If you somehow made it through school without watching the famous speech, we’ve got it linked above.
11. Jim Carrey reminds us that even if you keep it safe, you can still fail so you might as well go big
Jim Carrey delivered a commencement speech at Maharishi University recently that went absolutely viral. You may know it as the one minute video that will change your life. They weren’t lying but they weren’t telling the whole truth because the speech was actually 28 minutes long. During the speech, Carrey talks about his father who wanted to be a comedian but decided to take the safe route and become an accountant. As it turns out, his father was laid off and his family ended up poor anyway. With that, Carrey tells us that you can still end up failing even if you play it safe so you might as well swing for the fences and do what you want to do.
12. Bill Murray teaches us that it’s the hard times that determine if someone really loves you
You may have heard the story about Bill Murray crashing someone’s bachelor party and delivering a speech. It turns out the speech was both short and fairly epic. During the speech, Bill Murray challenged the bachelors to travel around the world with the women they love and go to places that are difficult to go to and deal with. He says if you can get back to the United States and you still love each other, then you should get married right then and there. It’s a great message. It’s easy to love one another when times are good but do you still love each other when the times are bad? If so, that’s true love according to Bill Murray.
Inspiration comes from everywhere and from anyone. There are a countless number of speeches and stories that can teach us an incalculable number of life lessons.
All these speeches almost share the same message: Don’t be afraid to fail and keep trying.
If you also want to live your best life like the above successful people, this is what you should start doing: