Ever been in a meeting where you are privileged to listen to a team member who loves to listen to the sound of his/her own voice? Have you ever been that person? Sometimes, in a group or presentation setting, we tend to hold the reigns of communication and never release them. It’s important to remember that there is a stark difference between effectively communicating and ‘talking at.’

Talking AT someone is a one-sided conversation. Have you ever been angry or frustrated with someone, so you make it your mission in life to make sure she understands what has upset you? You then spend a large amount of time explaining why (fill in the blank) was such a bad idea. We’ve all done it.

In effective communications, we are actually relaying a message. We are giving and receiving information. Communication can range anywhere from sitting down with your children and discussing their day at school over the dinner table (and LISTENING), to participating in a tele-conference with several different offices across the state or country.

Effective communication can be a tricky skill to learn. We’re often programmed through experience, that if we want to get a message across we’d better get it out there with force. Unfortunately, when we’re forcing our message, we’re not necessarily communicating effectively.

So, how do we effectively communicate in a team or group setting?

  1. Who is your audience? If you’re communicating with your co-workers or working peers, you will want to communicate differently than if you are communicating with your son’s soccer team. Know your audience, what they want and what they expect.
  2. Meet somewhere comfortable, if at all possible. Who ever felt good going to the principal’s office? It’s not usually a comfortable place. Make sure the room is the right size, the place is appropriate for the topic, etc.
  3. Maintain eye contact with your audience. WE may believe that in staring out the window at the falling snow, our message is being conveyed, but we lose credibility immediately with the receivers of our message. How in the world do we maintain eye contact with those on the phone? Remain focused on the conversation. Don’t let your mind wander. Don’t look out the window daydream about sipping hot chocolate in front of the fireplace, curled up with a great book. Focus on your audience. Be present in the conversation.
  4. Keep your audience involved. Ask for feedback during the conversation. Call on others for their input. Ask their opinions. If people may be asked to participate, they are more likely to pay attention, stay engaged and contribute to the communication.
  5. Take turns. Nobody likes a ball hog. Nobody likes a conversation hog. Sounds a bit like the playground in a way, doesn’t it?
  6. Be polite. This may need to be at the top of the list, and honestly, it should be a no-brainer, but sometimes we forget. Treat others the way we want to be treated. A little respect goes a long way, in both directions.
  7. If someone has a great idea, let them know! Don’t be bashful!
  8. Be confident and know your topic. It’s human to be a little uncomfortable in many situations, but “Never let ‘em see you sweat.”
  9. Sincerity is key. General George S. Patton said, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
  10. BE POSITIVE. You’re far more likely to be successful in your communication if you keep it positive. There is always a bright side. Don’t sugar coat the negative, but keep the conversation as upbeat as possible.

Effective communication is an art. If we follow a few simple steps, most of which are common sense after seeing them in print, maybe we can spend more time effectively communicating, and far less time simply talking.