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10 tips for clear communication

As a taster of how this can help, here are a few practical suggestions that will have an immediate impact on your communicating:

1We filter what we see and hear to make it fit with our own internal model of the world. In conversation check you have mutual understanding by clarifying and explaining what you mean.

2Your emotional state comes through in your body language and voice tone. If you feel sincere then you will look and sound sincere. If you are lying then people will usually pick up that something is wrong.

3To establish rapport, match and mirror some of the other person's posture, breathing rate, gestures, voice tone and pace of speaking. Keep it subtle!

4When we recall a past event or imagine one, we usually visualise it first. Then we glance upwards - if only for an instant. If we look down we are either accessing feelings or having an internal dialogue. Either way, eyes down is a sign of internal processing and you should wait, or ask what the person is thinking before moving on.

5People use different representational systems: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and digital (non-sensory). We tend to prefer one or two and use them most of the time. Listen for expressions like, "I see what you mean", "That rings a bell", "Let's get to grips with this". Matching the other person's language is another component of gaining rapport. When writing or speaking for a large audience, use a mix of the different representations.

6If someone is emotional, say angry, it is best to acknowledge it, perhaps by matching their gestures, posture or voice tone for a few seconds. Then you can lead them into a calmer state, to more normal behaviours. If you mismatch, e.g. use a placating tone, you will probably get the opposite effect.

7Listen actively. The occasional comment, nod or even grunt will let the other person know you are paying attention.

8Ask plenty of questions. You will leave others with a warm sense of having had a good conversation if you let them be the subject.

9Use open questions most of the time to keep the conversation flowing. Only use closed questions (eliciting "yes" or "no" answers) for clarification or to close down the conversation.

10To reduce the stress of questioning, e.g. in an interview, try using "soft framing". Rather than, "How would you do this?" ask, "What are some of the ways you could do this ...?" The effect is to open up mental resources that might shut down in response to a direct challenge.

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