Three Myths To Communicating Effectively
“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so”–William Shakespeare
There are common misconceptions about communicating what you say in an effective manner. Everyone’s got their ideas about what makes an effective communicator, and everyone will give you their opinions, whether you want them to or not.
In this post, we’ll explore three of the most common myths about communicating effectively, and explain why adhering to these myths can trip you up, plus we’ll explore advice on how to sidestep the pitfalls of these myths.
Myth 1: Using Technical Words Makes You Sound More Official/Smart in Any Situation.
This myth is founded on the idea of being impressive and wanting to impress others. There are people who believe that in order to get something across about what they know or love best, they have to use as much technical words, or jargon, as possible. This can actually slow down the communication process because not everyone is going to know what you’re talking about. So they’re going to be peppering you with either questions about terminology, or they’re just going to stare at you blankly while you happily gab on about what you know. And if people have to stop to ask questions about what words mean, that could be a real hazard when you’re actually in the workplace, because who wants to sit through a meeting while you define everything for the people listening to your presentation?
The whole point of effective communication is about making sure that what you have to say actually gets across to others. This means you won’t always get to use technical terms for things all the time. Know your audience. Don’t be afraid of learning how to condense information and write out what you want to say in terms that your audience will understand. If you know you are addressing people who might not be into the same things you are, using a lot of jargon may not be the wisest way to communicate. If, however, you are definitely in a room with people who share your passion for a particular topic, jargon may be perfectly acceptable.
For example, think about your favorite hobby, either now, or when growing up. Think about how much passion you have for that hobby and the time you took to learn things within that hobby—all the terms, the tools, etc. Now, think about how you might go about communicating that knowledge to someone who’s possibly never heard of what you do before. Do you toss out technical terms right and left, or do you try and explain what you do in terms that the other person might understand? If you know this other person well, you might use examples that they’d be able to relate to in order for them to mentally and emotionally connect with what you’re saying. This can apply when in more formal settings, like business meetings.
Myth 2: You Need To Portray a Certain Style In Order to Be Trusted and Seen As Credible
Some people have the belief that you have to be precisely like everyone else in order to seem credible about your topic. You have to have this appearance, or that appearance. In other words, according to this logic, you have to act like someone you’re not in order to be heard or believable. This myth is problematic in two ways.
First off, if you’re already communicating effectively, then by virtue of the topic you’re addressing, you already will appear credible. You’ll be getting things across, people will understand you and they will leave with the firm impression that you know very well what you’re talking about. When you’re talking, you’re the expert. You know what’s what.
But if you try to be something or someone you’re not, that’s when you lose credibility, because you’ll be trying so very hard to look like everyone else and fulfill a perhaps an unrealistic expectation. People would rather listen to someone who’s authentic and being themselves. Your presentation will seem natural, and you’ll be more likely to be calm and composed.
Secondly, wearing other people’s “styles” will trip you up. Even if you’re comfortable with the material you’ve chosen to present, if you try to mimic other people’s styles to seem impressive, polished, etc, when you’re more likely to be conversational-while-being-professional, you’re going to appear truly uncomfortable, because the way others are when speaking, may not be how you are, in reality. Whether you are detail-oriented and super-polished, or you’re more laid-back and conversational, it’s all about authenticity. Both ways can be effective, but you have to do it in a way that your message gets through.
Myth 3: What You Choose To Communicate Is Exactly What Your Audience Member Pays Attention To
It is not so much what you say but how you are saying it. This has to do with more subtle things like body language, tone of voice, and eye contact. It’s not about the content, it’s about the delivery. Someone who knows how to speak confidently and clearly using varied inflections in their tone of voice will gain an audience faster than someone who speaks in a monotonous voice that will put everyone to sleep. We’ve all had those teachers or professors who not only know their topic but know how to deliver lectures in a fascinating way. Then we also know those teachers or professors who simply write notes on an overhead projector in a darkened room: they speak with a monotone and expect us to stay awake. It’s a strong bet that you wouldn’t want to continue listening to the monotonous tone of voice. So how to avoid being that monotonous speaker?
Practice, and practice often. Doing this in front of a mirror, or even someone else helps immensely. Work on your topic transitions and other weak points. Learn how to maintain eye contact with your audience.
Overall, working as often as you can to avoid these three myths in communication will boost your success in the presentation work you do.
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Let us know in the comments below – Which one of these principles do you think would be the best for you to focus on for the next month?