6 More Tips
for Really Effective Communication
In my last article, I talked about some of the questions that came up in a Q&A on communication. In the second part of this topic, I’m looking at another good question that was asked:
“How can we communicate passion without getting too emotional, especially controlling our tone of voice?”
Being passionate and enthusiastic are great traits to have and make us all better at what we do. Sometimes, however, we can overdo it. If it’s a topic close to our heart, our values or our life experience, there’s a danger that we can overload the other person with our emotional needs and over-expression.
Here are my top 6 tips for avoiding that trap:
Trainee counsellors and psychotherapists undertake lengthy personal therapy to become self-aware of when their own ‘stuff’ might interfere with clear communication with their clients. Therapy enables them to understand their response to the other person and to know when they need to separate their own values from those of their client. I believe everyone can control their emotional expression and become a better communicator by becoming more self-aware.
Increased self-awareness allows you to deliberately manage and grade your level of response or style of communication. We can all benefit by investing in activities that help us to understand ourselves and our reactions better. Obviously I’m a big fan of coaching too…
Be aware of others
At the same time, it’s also essential to be aware of the needs of the other person (or audience) you are communicating with. Notice them, notice their reaction to you, see what they might need to receive and communicate appropriately.
Communicate the benefits
When we are passionate about a topic, we naturally understand the benefits of engaging with it, and are keen to talk about and share it. The key to effective communication is understanding that the other person needs to see what the benefits of the topic are to them. For example, if I am passionate about astronomy, it helps to know if the other person is interested in astronomy or if they have children or a partner who may be interested in astrology. Rather than just transmitting your passion and enthusiasm, it’s essential to find the link that will involve them actively in your communication.
If, despite your best efforts, there is no obvious connection, don’t despair. You can contract with the other person to maintain their relationship to your communication. When you are about to talk about your passion, you might say that you would really love to share with them what happened to you last week when you went stargazing: “I know it doesn’t interest you as much as it does me; however, I am so excited I would like to share. Would that be OK?”. Most people will respond positively and enjoy seeing you animated and energised for a few minutes.
Choose your tone of voice
Professor Albert Mehrabian from the University of California coined the 7-38-55 rule, showing that in certain face-to-face communications, our impact consists of three elements: body language (55%), tone of voice (38%) and words (7%). Over the telephone, tone of voice is responsible for up to 84% of the impact. Another study found that non-verbal cues (including tone) accounted for 4 times that of the actual words spoken. Our tone of voice therefore significantly impacts effective communication. Tone is also an essential component of written communication. Sending that concise, short-sentence factual email may be OK for people with a ‘Thinking’ style who value logic and data; however, those with a more ‘Feeling’ style may experience the note as terse, hostile or uncaring.
Be aware of the impact you want your message to have and adjust your tone to deliver that impact. Mirroring the other person’s style can be a great way to build rapport. An adult with small children naturally speaks to them in a higher-pitched voice. If the other person talks slowly, replying slowly to them is valid and vice versa. If you naturally speak with a strong regional accent, you may instinctively moderate your accent when speaking to someone from elsewhere, or you may slow down and speak more clearly when communicating with someone for whom English is not their first language.
Next time you communicate with passion and want to avoid getting too emotional, remember the six tips:
Be self-aware, manage yourself, be aware of others, communicate the benefits, contract to maintain your connection and choose your tone of voice thoughtfully.