Oct 3, 2007

Ask specific questions

Yesterday, I started an exercise that I hadn't done in long time: making a list of my knowledge and my skills. After about two pages for each, I drew a blank. So I turned to my wife, who was sitting beside me, and asked her: "Honey, what am I really good at?"

After she told me, it made me realise how important it is to be very specific in your questions, if you want to get the answer you need. In my case, I should have asked: "Honey, what am I really good at that I can use to improve the life of people outside of the family?"

Information is what you say. Communication is what the other person understands.

Information is a one way street. Communication is a multi-lane highway.

To improve your communication skills, make sure your messages are properly understood by the people who listen to you. Besides asking specific questions, there are some simple ways to do that. Let's assume you are speaking to one person:
  • Ask the person to repeat what she understood. When she does, listen for any discrepancies and clarify if need be.
  • Look her in the eye. Always make sure she is looking at you when you are speaking. Especially if she is busy doing something else (like answering email, speaking on the phone, or using her PDA). If she is not looking and seems to have her attention elsewhere, stop talking and wait.
  • Listen for more than words. Listen for tone of voice, body language, intentions, and so on.
The key word, here, is "listen". As many have said, in order to better communicate, listen twice as much as you speak.

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