We don't know what we don't know, and that's why communication can be challenging. How many of us can honestly say we're 100 percent sure our messages are heard and that we're always perceived as confident, credible, and trustworthy?
As trainers responsible for the development of your teams, you must be able to clearly communicate. Most of us are under the blurred assumption, "If I communicate a message it's heard." In reality, your message may not have been heard at all.
What makes it difficult for our listeners to hear and understand our message is we over-qualify what we want to say before we make our point. Why don't we just say what we mean? For example, my client asked me to observe him while he led a training session to identify his strengths and areas of improvement. As I observed his interaction with participants, I realized his choice of words minimized his confidence, authority, and professionalism. Before he'd make a point he'd say, "I'm probably way off base here..." He was shooting his credibility in the foot without realizing what he was doing. When participants asked him a question he'd begin his response with, "To be honest with you..." Does this mean he was lying prior to their questions? When I shared with him what I was hearing, he looked at me as if I was kidding. He said, "I'm a leader of a high-potential, progressive team and responsible for individuals' development. There's no way I could be using these phrases."
With his approval, I began audio-recording our conversation to assist me in providing him with constructive feedback. When we listened to his recording he was shocked. We fall into a trap of not getting to the point. Training professionals frequently tell me they don't want to come across as aggressive or too strong. Therefore they begin their statements with qualifiers. These qualifiers minimize your credibility, confidence, and trust. Imagine how much time you could save in training sessions if you would get to the point. Last week during my observation of a training session, the trainer opened her session with the following statement: "I want to ask you a question. What is your number one challenge for working smarter?" Just ask it! Her message and presence would've been more powerful if she would've opened her session with: "What is your number one challenge for working smarter?" Do you hear the difference between these two examples?
Be careful of using the following qualifiers:
- I was wondering if we might consider...
- I think...
- I'm probably way off base here...
- This might be a stupid idea, but...
- To be honest with you...
- I'm going to tell you a story...
Another, uh , challenge we have, you know , that is preventing, um , us from, like , getting to the point, um are the words, you know , that clutter, you know, our language. When you here trainers use these words in italics, how do you perceive them? Knowledgeable, credible, and confident probably don't come to mind. The number one challenge individuals need to overcome if they want to influence, is the ability to replace their non-words with a pause. We use non-words to buy ourselves time to think about what we want to say. These words become distracting and your participants misinterpret your message. Instead, give participants time to hear and understand your message.
Give yourself permission to think on your feet by replacing your non-words with pauses. Speak in shorter thoughts or sentences.
As a result, you will:
- Get to the point and avoid rambling.
- Hold participant's attention.
- Gain control over your message and how you communicate your message.
- Give participants time to hear, understand, and act on what you say.
When we're trying to break old habits it's difficult to accomplish this grueling task on our own because we're unaware of our behavior and our word choice. The key to creating new habits is to receive immediate feedback to make a change.
Without immediate feedback you'll:
- Continue to be in denial.
- Choose to use qualifiers and non-words.
- Annoy your participants because you never get to the point.
- Be perceived with a lack of knowledge, confidence, trust, and credibility.
How can you make sure your communication isn't breaking up?
1. Give yourself permission to think on your feet. PAUSE to give yourself the time you need to collect your thoughts so you sound confident, credible, and knowledgeable.
2. Pre-plan. Prior to your training session, take time to think through your words and choose words that will tap into what's important to your participants.
3. Videotape yourself delivering your next training session. When you review the tape, ask yourself the following:
- Is what I'm saying consistent with how I say it?
- What worked and didn't work for me and for the participants?
- What can I do and say to increase learner retention?
- Could I sit through my training session more than once?
Enhancing our communication is a lifelong process. The advantage you have as a corporate trainer? You have numerous opportunities to practice and enhance your ability to communicate with impact and influence. Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes permanent.
Stacey Hanke is founder of 1st Impression Consulting, Inc., and author of "Yes You Can!" and "Everything You Need From A to Z To Influence Others To Take Action." Visit www.1stimpressionconsulting.com.