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Communication goes beyond words

  • Published Thursday, Sep. 29, 2011, at 12:08 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Sep. 29, 2011, at 7:06 a.m.

"The way you express can lead to success," as the saying goes by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

No matter how quaint the saying appears, believe me, it is absolutely true.

If you want to impress your clients, your colleagues or your boss, the way you express can make or break your goals for success. How we communicate involves how we speak, and how we communicate on a nonverbal basis — what we don't say.

In fact, the nonverbal aspects of communication can be just as powerful, if not more so, than the words that we say.

The following are a few tips on the art of communication that may bring you closer to your goals for success in your business and even your social life:

* Always keep your responses to questions concise; that is, do not give more information than is requested. Remember, a closed mouth gathers no foot!

* Take time to consider various possible questions or options prior to a one-on-one or group meeting so you won't be caught off guard.

* During a job interview, or any interaction, if you are not sure how to answer a direct question, say so, but say it with confidence, not embarrassment, with positive confidence, not defiance, and with positive poise that makes others feel at ease.

* Speak slower than your usual rate of speech. Most people, including business people, ministers, television news broadcasters, teachers and politicians, speak much too rapidly, at a rate of around 160 and even up to 190 words per minute. A listener's central nervous system cannot process speech that is spoken at that rate. It is important to practice speaking at a rate of around 128 words per minute.

* Never look panicked or bewildered, no matter how off-guard you feel. Rather, appear contemplative — become a good actor and remain calm.

* In meetings, do not become emotional! Never get into a shouting match over issues, no matter how close they are to you. All that does is result in the need for an uncomfortable apology later.

* In resolving conflicts, practice forgiving, forgetting and getting over it.

* Remember, people like good listeners better than good talkers. So, one of the best ways to persuade or negotiate is to be a good listener. The other person may resolve the questions or issues on her or his own by talking it out while you listen. In other words, when one person speaks loudly, it is best to simply listen quietly.

* You can never win an argument. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.

* Watch your stance — not the ballet dancer stance, nor that of a fighter. Feet should be about 12 inches apart, with toes straight, not pointed at an outward angle.

* My mother always told me that when speaking to another person, look them in the eye to show sincerity. Don't do that. Looking at a person in the eyes just makes them feel uncomfortable. Aim for their nose. You are being attentive but are not staring.

* Keep your social distance. Thirty inches is just fine — no closer and no farther.

* In terms of dress for women, watch the makeup. Wear conservative clothing, comfortable shoes, discreet jewelry and nicely groomed hair, no matter what the current Vogue style might be.

* For men, wear conservative, well-pressed clothing, non-distracting jewelry, conservative and well-groomed shoes, conservative and well-groomed hair, clean hands and, most of all, clean fingernails.

* And, please remember: The first two minutes after entering a room are the most critical. Opinions are formed during that brief period of time that are difficult to alter later.

Raymond H. Hull is a professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Wichita State University. Contact him at 316-978-3271 or ray.hull@wichita.edu.

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