Communication is one of those skills that will come in handy across all areas of your life, from your interpersonal relationships to your career.
It’s also a learned skill, and so while some people have natural talents when it comes to communication, it’s not the end of the world if you struggle. There’s a lot that you can do to improve.
One such way is to understand the traits that great communicators have in common, whether we’re talking about Steve Jobs or Winston Churchill. That’s where today’s article comes in.
Let’s dive in and take a look at 11 of the traits that great communicators have in common with each other.
1) They’re clear about what they want
The most important part of being a great communicator is having the ability to clearly state what you want.
Now, you’d think this would be easy, but it’s not. You’d be surprised by how often people fail to be clear about what they want, relying instead on dropping hints or using euphemisms. This is particularly common in relationships, where people tend to try to be subtle for fear of starting an argument.
The idea is pretty simple. If you’re clear about what you want, you have a better chance of actually receiving it. Marketers use this trick all the time.
You know how you’ll be on a website and you’ll read “click here to read more”, “buy now” or “get your free sample”? Exactly.
2) They’re empathetic
Great communicators are able to display a large amount of empathy, which means that they can put themselves into other people’s shoes. This can boost communication because the person they’re speaking to feels as though they’re being listened to.
The opposite of this is also true, which is why politicians are often criticized for being out of touch. If a country’s leader is unable to understand what life is like for their citizens, it becomes much harder for them to effectively communicate with them.
Empathy is a skill like any other, and so if you struggle with empathy now, your best option is to practice and to get used to displaying empathy throughout your life.
And remember, this is all about boosting your communication skills, so try tapping into your empathy the next time you’re talking to someone.
3) They’re open-minded
Open-minded people tend to be better communicators because they find it easier to be empathetic, and we already know the importance of that.
This is because they tend to be more receptive to new cultures and new ideas. They’re also more receptive to new communication styles and to adapting the way that they communicate based on the person they’re talking to.
For example, when it comes to being briefed on a new project, some people want to be briefed in person while others prefer to have a written brief. One of the keys to great communication is to understand this and to switch up your communication style when needed.
The question is, how open-minded are you?
4) They’re active listeners
Active listening is a form of listening in which you go out of your way to pay attention to what the person you’re talking to is saying.
When we talk to people, we quite often fall into the trap of simply waiting until it’s our turn to talk.
When that happens, we risk missing out on what’s being said, and that’s a great way to foster misunderstandings and miscommunication.
An important part of active listening is prompting people to continue by asking relevant questions.
This shows them that you’re listening and that you’re interested, and it can even encourage people to say more than they might otherwise have said.
And so as counterintuitive as it might feel, if you want to be a good speaker, you need to first learn to be a good listener.
5) They know how to use and read body language
It’s often said that body language makes up 80% of our communication, with what we actually say and the way that we say it only making up the remaining 20%.
These figures are sometimes disputed, but it’s hard to argue with the general idea. We’re all aware that body language is important, and yet we often completely fail to take it into account.
The best communicators are well aware of the impact of their body language, and they use that to their advantage. If they’re speaking to a hostile audience, for example, then they’ll hold the palms of their hands out in the universal gesture for “I’m unarmed and no threat”.
Oh, and don’t forget that the meaning of your body language can change depending upon where you are. A thumbs up can be considered to be offensive in the Middle East.
6) They’re authentic and true to themselves
We should all try to be authentic in everything that we do, but it’s particularly important when it comes to communication.
When we’re being authentic and true to ourselves, we’re better able to communicate because we can focus purely on the message we’re trying to deliver instead of worrying about the character we’re playing.
If you take a few moments to look at the people who are the most memorable communicators, such as Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King, you’ll see that they were able to make such a name for themselves because they were so unashamedly, well, themselves.
And so if you want to be the kind of communicator that people remember long after they speak to you, it helps for you to speak from the heart and to be yourself.
7) They’re confident
This is a bit of an obvious one, but if you want to be a good communicator, it helps if you’re confident when it comes to communication.
There are different ways to be confident. One way is to make sure that you know the ins and outs of your subject matter. If you’ve been asked to deliver a presentation on a new product launch, for example, then you’re going to want to make sure that you know everything there is to know about that product.
Another strategy that I swear by is to fake it ‘til you make it. By that, I mean that even if you don’t feel confident, pretend that you are. That helped me to deliver a couple of presentations in Milan when my old employer flew me out to speak at a conference.
Real confidence is better if you can get it, but that’s not always the case.
8) They empower people
Great communicators empower people, instead of disempowering them.
I’ve occasionally been guilty of this disempowerment, because sometimes when I try to help my partner, I end up just correcting her and leaving her feeling stupid. Take it from me that this is definitely what not to do.
Instead, when you’re communicating with people, try to be the kind of communicator who builds people up instead of dragging them down. You’ll be able to tell the effect that you have on people based upon the way they react to you.
In other words, if you empower people, you’ll know.
9) They’re patient
Great communicators are patient, in part because they have to be.
They have to wait their turn to talk when they’re having a conversation, and if they’re making a request or delivering a pitch in a boardroom, they need to wait for the right moment before they hit the other person with what they want.
Patience is also required during the learning phase, because it takes time to become a good communicator. The good news is that patience is something else that’s like a muscle and which you can boost over time.
10) They’re relatable
The best communicators are relatable when they speak, and they’re able to be relatable because they go out of their way to be so.
As human beings, there are certain traits that we all have in common. For example, we all want to be loved, and we all need shelter and to eat regular meals. We all have an inherent connection to music, even though music changes from one region to another, and we all react well to stories.
And so while it’s not exactly mandatory to be relatable, it’s not a bad idea if you’re trying to boost your communication skills. If nothing else, you can use it when you use metaphors or give examples because you can base them on popular culture.
11) They’re storytellers
Let’s double back to that point about human beings having an inherent response to stories.
Authors and filmmakers are very familiar with this idea, but it’s also been gaining traction amongst sales and marketing teams in recent months. If you want people to buy your product, it helps to tell a story about how important your product is.
The best communicators are used to telling stories as part of their presentations, and those stories help them to get their point across. The next time you’re watching a speaker that you enjoy, take a step back and see whether they’re telling a story. They probably are.
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