Why do some people communicate better than others? Is it an innate ability that sets them apart or is it something else?
“What we got here is a failure to communicate” Cool Hand Luck
I won’t focus in this post on all the skills you should master in order to communicate effectively. There are quite a few. Instead, I’ll focus on the communication habits and skills that their presence or lack thereof messes with our ability to transmit a message effectively.
#1 Empathy can’t be faked, but it can be practiced
If we lack empathy for the person in front of us, it shows from the get go. We’re wired in a way that tells other people how much they matter to us, a relic from a time we needed to know if the person in front of us was a friend or foe.
Most of our communication is nonverbal; this means that no matter what you say, your body language and various signs tell other people everything they need to know. For example, if you don’t care about the person in front of you, they, too, will reciprocate and not be open to your message.
We have all met bad salespeople who faked empathy and employed various sales tactics in order to sell their product. That’s exactly how other people feel when you’re viewing them as a machine intended only to listen to what you’ve got to say.
Instead of imitating horrible sales people, have a look at their excellent counterparts.
Excellent sales people are extremely empathic. They are genuinely interested in the other person and they provide feedback that has both depth and insights to the other person’s predicament.
When you show the person in front of you that you’re genuinely interested in him, he opens up to you and he’s more receptive to your message. Being more empathic to other people’s predicaments requires actively practicing the habit of listening, the most important communication skill that no one ever teaches you.
Excellent sales people were not born excellent listeners, it’s a skill they developed the more they practiced it. It won’t be easy and it will require a lot of focus at first, but stop and listen, you just might figure out what you’ve been missing all this time.
#2 Arrogance makes you stupid – and people hate stupid
If you think that you’re better than other people, you’re probably less smart then you think you are.
As it turns out, thinking that you’re the best, backfires. If you think that you’re god’s gift to mankind, you’re using less of your frontal lobes than people who have a more realistic view of themselves.
According to Jennifer Beer, an assistant professor of psychology from the University of Texas:
“In healthy people, the more you activate a portion of your frontal lobes, the more accurate your view of yourself is, and the more you view yourself as desirable or better than your peers, the less you use those lobes.”
Your frontal lobes are generally associated with reasoning, planning, decision-making and problem-solving. If you view yourself through rosy-colored glasses, then you’re probably not that good at the above described skills.
Furthermore, people around you are well aware to the fact that you’re arrogant. As I mentioned above what you’re really thinking shows through your body language even when you’re not talking, self-absorbed thoughts shout loader than words.
If you sin in hubris, just know this, people will try to avoid you since your views are annoying and not connected to reality. Arrogance is an impulsive trait that comes from a narcissistic view of the world; it stands in your way when you try to communicate.
If you used to tap yourself on the shoulder because other people haven’t, it’s time to stop that and join the rest of humanity; arrogance is a trait of the narcissistically wounded.
#3 Going straight to the point is an excellent way to get ignored
You might think that if you’ll get straight to the point, you’ll reach your target audience faster. This might be true if you’re asked a specific question with an emphasis on no BS, but in almost any other situation you’re expected to provide (even if not asked explicitly) some sort of entertainment.
Storytelling is the best form of entertainment, at least in my view.
When the human race was younger, people huddled together next to campfires, they didn’t have TV’s and radios back then, so they told each other fabulous tales that captivated the listeners’ mind with angry gods, fearsome monsters, great hunts and bountiful gain.
As a result, people’s love of hearing stories grew; the story’s effect was almost enchanting. They drew us in and made us a part of them, they molded the way we thought and modified it to take a more active part in the story we were hearing…
Our brain as it turns out is extremely active when it hears a story:
If you slide a person into an FMRI machine that watches the brain while the brain listens to a story, you’ll find something interesting–the brain doesn’t act as a spectator, it acts more like a participant in the action. (Source: fast company)
Yes, if you’re telling a good story, the people who are listening will participate actively even before the first word leaves their mouths. Their brain will experience the story and make itself a part of it. As a result, the people listening will become much more susceptible to the message conveyed in that story and to the storyteller’s influence.
Every time you tell a story, you’ll find a willing participant much faster than when you’ll try to convey a point in any other way.
#4 Getting stressed next to people is an oxymoron
We’ve all experienced it at one point or another in our lives. Some people and some conversation stress the heck out of us and as a result, we mess up the interaction with them, or at least we think we messed it up.
The reasons we get stressed when we’re interacting with other people are plentiful, whether it’s:
- Over-awareness – We’re too aware of ourselves or imagine scenarios in which other people judge us harshly.
- Fear of missing out (FOMO)/Rejection – We don’t want to disappoint someone and we get stressed because we know that we can’t control the outcome of the interaction and it’s up to ‘them’.
- Lack of confidence – We think we can’t do something and that others can do it better.
When we get stressed our body gets ready to jump into action. Stress hormones are released into our bloodstream and we’re all wired. We experience this response because when we’re interacting with other people for the first time, we don’t know what to expect.
Our brain interprets everything as a threat and prepares the body accordingly. This response is called fight or flight and it is connected to the more ancient parts of our brain, those parts that were once responsible to save us from danger.
But it’s not danger we’re facing, its other people like us that are interested (some more, some less) in communicating with us. When we talk to someone, they are experiencing the same fears we’re experiencing, they’re more occupied in how they look, and what they’re saying then how you look and what you’re saying.
It’s funny that way, we fear them, and they fear us. And you know what else is funny?
Talking is actually cathartic in its nature; it provides us with psychological relief through the open expression of our strong emotions; the same emotions and fears that stress us in the first place. So as it turns out, the thing we actually fear is the one thing that can help you get less stressed.
Our brain is a funny machine… Until next time.
Comment below with your tips for effective communication.