Two fingers reaching toward each other
Image by littledan77

There is much advice on blogs about how to get your message across. This embraces advice like: have a good attention grabbing headline, tell stories, be entertaining and so on. This is all sensible, but I’d like to examine it a bit.

Sometimes things are the reverse of what we expect.
I grew up in an evangelical Christian culture. In this culture becoming a missionary was highly regarded. And so if you wanted to become a missionary you were expected to get good training. You needed to speak the language of the place you were going to, and have a good knowledge of the culture. You were also expected to be a good ambassador for chrisitanity and so to have a thorough grasp of the Bible and christian theology. All of this was important for people to be accepted in the culture they were going to. (All this is great. Rude and arrogant people looking down on the people and culture they go to is unattractive – and a long way from the spirit of Christ.)

Who is most easily accepted into any culture? Usually children. They do not speak the language, are often socially inept and have little grasp of the Bible or Christian theology.

What is the most memorable piece of communication you have ever experienced?
What do you remember being said to you? For me, one of them is when my current partner and I were getting to know each other, she said, “I dig you”. Perhaps if you are a parent it is your child telling you that they love you.

On more dry topics I remember a couple of things from high school. One is from Year 9 science: we were doing the digestive system and the teacher pointed out that we have a tube running through us with barriers along the way. This really struck me – I can still picture the room we were in at the time and how I felt.

The moments of communication that are most meaningful to us are often not carefully prepared, well presented and thought through. They often actually have a quality of rawness and presence about them.

It’s Annoying Sometimes
I’ve taught various courses in my life. I always prepare carefully and thoroughly and care about what I say and how I say it. And yet it is often the question and comments in the class that are the best times of learning – for me and the students.

I choose my words carefully and try to be clear in my communication. A good friend of mine told me that she didn’t really worry about what I said – she thought I was good-hearted. My striving to be clear she just found cerebral and confusing.

Generalisation can be a problem.
When I was younger I thought that if people didn’t understand I should explain more. Perhaps use a different framework of understanding. It was frustrating when this didn’t work – perhaps I needed more frameworks!

How to Communicate Well – the theory
Usually the most memorable communication is quite emotional, often raw and unrehearsed; it is the heartfelt that usually matters.

And in more dry things, like science classes, it is what we can relate to ourselves and our experience that communicates. Not as intensely as deep emotional matters but something that makes sense of our experience in some way.

How to Communicate Well – the practice.
Let people know that you care. About the topic you are talking about. About them if you are talking face to face. (With something like a blog this is difficult – it is mostly done through responding to comments.)

Let people know why you care. You can do this fairly easily by talking about the highlights of this topic and how it has effected you deeply. Or tell a story about a particular incident. This can help alot when disagreement is happening, it helps people to loosen up from the words and focus on people and not just the topic.

To communicate deeply find common experience. And often this means being willing to talk about what is closest to our core. If you can touch people at the core of who they are, this will surely communicate.

How to Communicate Well – some tips
Emotional connection is important. This is very different to pumped up enthusiasm. This can come from things like speaking about what is happening for you right now, or by recounting past experiences that are important to you.

Clarity is important. If people are left confused this is usually poor communication. You can always ask where you lost someone or what they aren’t getting. If you are confused too, it can be helpful to say this. If you can say where the confusion is this will help: sometimes we can only communicate our confusion clearly. It can be important to do this too.

If you are communicating in a more formal setting.
Know what you want to say. It can be helpful to over prepare – this will usually allow you to relax and leave the script, confident that you know what you are doing.

Break it down into natural bite size segments.

Remember how you came to learn it. Starting with a summary is a mistake – summaries are made after you know the topic. Start with an overview – the parts of the subject and why it is important.

Find how it touches the experience of those you are communicating with. Communication is about our experience and another’s experience matching.

Stories that make the point are very useful. If you can find a good story that says what you want to say it is hard to go wrong. Most of us seem to find stories engaging – I don’t know why but it certainly seems to be true.

And do I think I always do this on my blog? No. But I do try to. My worry is that I have tried to cram in too much into this one post. If so, let me know in the comments. I am happy to expand on anything in this post.

I hope that this gives you some useful ideas about what to do to communicate well with others (informally or formally) and that it also gives you some starting points for things to do when communication is not going well for you.

I’d like to know what are the memorable moments of communication for you? Let me know in the comments.

Related Posts:
Connecting with the emotion
How to Listen to Someone
I Statements

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4 Comments to “How to Communicate”

  1. Blackhatseo says:

    I linked to your site, but I don’t think the ping came thru on your end. oh well. Btw, my blog is dofollow, stop by and grab a link.

  2. Sarah Luczaj says:

    “When I was younger I thought that if people didn’t understand I should explain more.”

    This made me giggle. I think almost invariably if people don’t understand me I need to explain less 😉

    Nice post.

  3. Evan says:

    Hi Blackhat,

    I’ll have a look at your site.

    Thanks for the link, appreciated. Evan

  4. Evan says:

    Hi Sarah,

    I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for commenting.

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