Better Communication Techniques: Do You Sound Like A Broken Record?
Phrases and quotes come in and go out of style with each generation. When I was growing up in the 1960's, people described those who liked to continually repeat themselves in this manner: "You sound like a broken record!" That's because vinyl phonograph records had a habit of getting easily scratched or damaged if they were not handled with great care. A scratch or damage could cause the needle which picked up the sounds from the grooves in the recording to get stuck in one place, playing the same brief sounds over and over again until the needle was moved.
People who lack good communication skills tend to repeat their points over and over again. This is annoying and extremely unproductive. They sound like a broken record. However, there are times when you can use repetitive speech during a conversation or presentation to your advantage. If the person or group you're speaking to seems to be ignoring you during a critical point that you're trying to make, there is nothing wrong with coming back to it later in the form of a summary.
Whether you are having an open conversation with others involved or making a presentation, it's very important to stay focused and keep everyone else focused on what you are trying to communicate to them. Repetition is not the best way to do this. Instead, try these methods:
1. Maintain eye contact with your listeners.
2. Do not immediately respond to criticisms or questions designed to bait you into losing your train of thought or to move the discussion away from your message.
3. Be animated, but make sure you insert enough calm into your presentation or discussion to make certain that you do not appear to be a carbon copy of every other speaker they have heard a thousand times over. Do NOT use annoying cookie-cutter communication phrases like, "Let's put that on the back burner," or "Let's run that up the flag pole and see how it flutters." Avoid text message speak (generally, it makes people sound like idiots when they are not actually texting).
4. Follow through with each point you make, but do not over-state the obvious or provide more information than is needed for the moment.
5. Avoid making pronouncements of doom (listing all the bad things that will happen if they do not agree with your facts) and never make any part of your speech or conversation an ultimatum (they had better listen to you or else).
6. Do not preach, rant or lecture. If you sound like your third grade teacher, a fire and brimstone preacher or a motivational speaker at an insurance or real estate seminar, you are out of luck!
7. Offer sound advice in the form of suggestions, but never shovel it into the ears of your listeners.
8. Do not assign blame or overly criticize your audience. People quickly tune out negative speech. We have all heard people say, "I felt threatened by that presentation." If so, the presentation was a complete waste of time.
9. Keep any final summation short. Do not over-simplify your points, but do not over-state or drag them out by repeating your entire presentation of each either.
10. Have a short summary of your presentation available in print or ready to be emailed to any interested parties. Try to get as many of your listeners to accept your summary as possible. It will give them a chance to revisit your ideas at a more convenient time. Keep your summary short (one to two pages is preferable) with hot points and short explanations or definitions.
11. Know what you're talking about. Make sure that you have thoroughly researched your subject so that you will not be surprised or embarrassed by information that someone else may have that you do not know about.
Getting your point across is never just about saying words, it's about communicating feelings, back and forth, and having respect for your listeners and their viewpoints. Any important conversation or presentation should always make your listeners feel that you:
- respect differing opinions on the subject at hand without compromising your own.
- understand that the subject may cause people to express strong feelings about it and that you will not feel offended if they do.
- are willing to learn from others who may have another point of view as long as they are willing to learn from you as well.
- will listen to and consider the facts and views presented by everyone present without prejudice.
The key to successfully getting your point across is to:
- Use, not abuse, repetitive speech.
- Open doors instead of closing them.
- Keep your listeners engaged and interested and show them respect.
Make people want to hear your side of the story. You can do this by using some of the suggestions I have offered. It's all about looking at your audience as individuals, each with different personalities and perceptions of what you're saying to them.