We know those people who really practice repeating something louder and possibly putting an “O” on the end of the word to aid being understood even in a different language. Some of the time we get by with very poor communications; instructions given without clear sequences, little concern for safety and indignance when the results don’t resemble expectations. With this type of failure, we often excuse poor communications by citing too little time, too much to do, workers not paying attention — you know, everyone except the person in the mirror looking back at you. What makes a good communicator?

Ah, good old communications, the art of distributing information that is (or you thought it was) important to you. Why is it we always think we are better at communicating with others than they are with us? I never misunderstand what I am thinking so why don’t others see what I am saying? Hear me out, listen to me, clear as mud, clean the fog off your ears and all the other admonitions we used to cover the fact that our message isn’t getting out or understood. Just because you know what you want to get across doesn’t mean it gets there. What are the more common secrets of good communicators?

Actually we can learn a lot about communicational effectiveness by considering how we communicate with the elderly or those customers with whom we deal about aging-in-place. We talk about hearing and sight impairments and how we modify our delivery to make ourselves understood — without which there is no agreement, no sale and no happy Mike.

There are those with a talent for communicating; they are singers, actors and yes even politicians; Frank Sinatra, Alexander Scourby, Julie Andrews, Sam Elliott, Winston Churchill, FDR, Ronald Reagan, Ella Fitzgerald, James Earl Ray, JFK and many others. Some communicate well because of unusually clear and distinctive voices — Scourby narrated the Bible; Elliott and Ray with deep clear voices; Ella, Julie Andrews and Sinatra have very clear, pure and very flexible voices; FDR, Ron Reagan, Churchill, Billy Graham, and Bob Hope have ordinary voices but used excellent timing for delivery. Many of these folks are celebrities and they are all celebrated because of their ability to communicate effectively.

When you communicate, concentrate on what you are going to say and watch your audience for expressions that seem to say, “Oh, I get it” or “What is he talking about?” Always make eye contact when you are giving instructions or interviewing, whether a prospective employee or a client prospect. Speak deliberately but not slowly unless asked; stay away from acronyms where possible. Avoid long strings of specifics, they are uninteresting though important and our brain yawns at too long a list. When combining written and spoken instructions, review the written ones with the responsible parties and specifically ask for understanding.

If you believe someone isn’t paying attention, ask them to repeat and explain the instructions back to you — this can solve two issues (or destroy both), you get the employee’s attention but you also may find out your instructions are gibberish. Another practice with multiple site managers and common instructions — give instructions to one manager and have them deliver to the group with you present for good training. Ask the recipient of your message if it can be made briefer and still function or is it detailed enough? In general, the more concise the message the better it will be remembered; three repetitions are required to have a good chance at retention. But any way you say it, louder with or without an “O” doesn’t make it clearer only louder, es verdad? , while you’re here…

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