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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Are Your Communication Skills Sabotaging Your Career? - Part 1

By Dee Piziak

Stop Talking Yes, you heard right. Stop talking and start listening. Most people are very poor listeners and even worse, they constantly interrupt the other person. Since everyone enjoys talking, it takes a real effort to break these very bad habits. But it is the only way you will ever become a successful communicator. A good rule of thumb is to let the other person do 75% of the talking and you only do 25%.

The Power of Listening The reason why listening is so powerful is because it builds trust. The more you listen to another person, the more he or she trusts you and believes in you. Listening also builds the other person's self-esteem. When you listen carefully to another person, you are in effect telling them that what they have to say is so important that you aren't going to say one single thing until they're done. People will seek you out because they will feel very comfortable in your presence. The more they seek you out, the further ahead you will get and you will be amazed at how quickly your career starts to move forward.

Ask for Clarification If you aren't 100% certain what the person is saying, never guess or assume. Ask for clarity because if you don't, you'll end up talking in circles. Then the other person will leave the conversation thinking "She doesn't get it." They never say "Gee, I'm a lousy communicator and I didn't explain it to her properly"; they always say "She doesn't get it." I know it's unfair but that's what happens...

The most effective method I've ever learned for getting more information is to ask "How do you mean?" It's such a mild and polite question that it's impossible not to answer. The other person cannot stop himself or herself from answering more extensively. You can then follow up with other questions and have a very productive conversation.

Use Open Ended Questions Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions encourage the speaker to expand on his or her thoughts and comments. And one question will lead to another. By asking open-ended questions, you can draw out of the other person everything that he or she has to say on a particular subject. Then you have all the information you need to respond intelligently.

Pause Before Replying This is a key strategy that the very best verbal communicators use. A short pause of three to five seconds is all you need to do. When you pause, you accomplish four things. First, you avoid interrupting the person if they had more to say. Second, you show respect by giving careful consideration to what the person just said. Third, what the person said will sink into your mind and your response will be much more on point than if you just blurted it out. Last, but not least, you come across as a very thoughtful and intelligent person.

I'll tell you right now that pausing is the hardest thing to learn. Even though it's only three to five seconds, it feels more like three to five minutes. At first, it's very awkward to do. Try a little experiment: start observing the executives and highly respected managers in your organization. You will see that they use this strategy all the time. It works for them and it will work for you too.

Body Language When you are speaking to someone, maintain eye contact at all times. Don't scan the room, looking for other people. That's rude. Don't look down at the conference room table or the floor or past the person. That shows your lack of self-confidence. Never cross your arms or hang out in the chair as if it's your personal Barcalounger. Carry yourself in a relaxed yet professional way. If you are comfortable, you'll make the other person feel comfortable too.

Ask someone (who you think has a very professional style) to critique you on your body language just as soon as you are done reading this article. I'm not kidding. This is one of those silent career killers that nobody will tell you about because it's embarrassing to talk about.

Use These Strategies All the Time Don't just use these strategies for meetings or when you talk to managers or high level people. Use them all the time. By doing so, you will quickly break old bad habits and completely turn your verbal communication skills around in no time at all.

But the most important reason is that when you use these techniques, you are giving out a high level of respect and consideration to whoever you come in contact with. And everyone deserves to receive that, regardless of whether they are the CEO or the janitor. It's the right thing to do.

Dee Piziak is a manager for a Fortune 500 company and a university instructor. Her consulting firm, Acadia Communications, specializes in professional coaching, career development, and resume writing. Visit her website at http://www.acadiacommunications.com and sign up for her FREE monthly career coaching newsletter.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Dee_Piziak

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