5 Ways to Enhance Communication Skills

Jim Woods

Jim Woods has over 20 years of experience in the markets from working as a stockbroker, financial journalist, and money manager.

The ability to communicate cogently and objectively is essential to a successful life.

You can possess all the knowledge in the world, but if you can’t communicate that knowledge to others clearly, you will be hamstrung both personally and professionally.

To engage in a really full life, one filled with reason, passion, love and meaning, we must interact fruitfully with others. That means we must make those interactions meaningful and important, regardless of how brief those interactions may be. You see, it is the quality of your communications with others that determines the depth and meaning of your relationships.

I was recently discussing the need for enhanced communication with someone I consider an expert in objective communication, my friend, personal finance and media expert, Heather Wagenhals, host of the highly recommended Unlock Your Wealth Today.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, Heather is the producer of my podcast, Way of the Renaissance Man. One of the reasons I chose her for that role is because of her outstanding communication skills. And after discussing the value of enhanced communication skills, we both agreed that this would be a great topic of interest to The Deep Woods readers.

The following are five ways that Heather and I think are the best methods to begin enhancing your communication skills. And though I contributed to these ideas, I must confess that Ms. Wagenhals is the true tour de force behind the veil.

Here are five ways to enhance your communication skills.

1) Stop blathering endlessly. Conversation is not a 50-50 engagement. It is 100% both ways. Every communication is less about getting your point across and more about understanding. Think about how many times you have worked so hard to prove that you are right, only to fail at whatever attempt at negotiation or persuasion you are trying to achieve.

Consider it your obligation when communicating to try and achieve a clear sense of mutual understanding. A great communicator stays focused on his objective whether it is looking for and establishing rapport with someone new, just engaging in pleasantries or persuading someone toward a new way of thinking or acting.

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2) Looking is also listening. Familiarize yourself with Mehrabian’s rule and realize that more is spoken without words. This rule is viewed as a ratio that explains how much emphasis we put on parts of communication. 55-38-7. 55% of our communication is nonverbal. This includes body language, gestures, facial expressions, posture etc. We say the most without even saying a word. 38% of our communication is audible. This is what we hear, including volume, rate, pitch and vocal inflection. Only 7% of our ability to communicate is the actual words we use.

This is why computer-mediated conversations such as email and text messages are often misinterpreted — because you have to infer 93% of the intent. Even while on the phone, we’re at a disadvantage because we only receive 45% of the message. Whenever possible, place yourself in face-to-face conversations, as that allows for the greatest level of communication.

3) Listen in full focus. Listening must occur with intensity and focus. Avoid thinking about what you are going to say next, avoid interrupting and just truly listen. Failure to do this will result in you missing out on quite a bit of information. An enhanced communicator understands the ratio of two ears to one mouth, and he/she respects his/her communication counterpart by listening twice as much as speaking.

The value of listening intently is that you will learn where people stand, and you will obtain even more information. Most people will tell you exactly what’s on their mind if you listen with both your eyes and ears. And often, you will glean more from the communication with regards to how and what others say and don’t say.

4) Think before you reply. One of the most valuable assets an enhanced communicator has is the capacity to think. By remaining calm and not engaging in instinctive and possibly overly emotional reactions, we can find ourselves in our highest resource states — the states that allow us to think objectively and clearly. This is where we review the information we have just received, and we can adequately evaluate the meaning of our conversation.

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Did the other person give us enough information to elicit our understanding? Is a follow-up question necessary for clarification so that we do not make any assumptions? Unless we stop and think about it for a moment and be genuinely contemplative, we can succumb to a knee-jerk reaction that can have an adverse impact, not only on that conversation, but potentially on the entire relationship.

5) Speak your thoughtful response. After you stifle the impulse for snappy comebacks or misquoting adages or misinterpreting someone else’s vaguely expressed emotion, carefully consider and then respectfully and purposefully share your response. By exercising the prior four ways to enhance your communication skills, you honor and respect the person you’re communicating with, even if he/she does not agree with your point of view. By replying in this way, you preserve the other person’s integrity, especially when he/she perceives you to be incorrect.

Remember that in order to earn the respect of others, you must be courteous, even to your detractors. By engaging in civil discourse with everyone using these five enhanced communication principles, whether it is the clerk in a store, your employer, a subordinate, a friend or family member, you can seize the opportunity to deepen your relationships and gain more from each conversation.

When you make or deepen connections by using what we call the “Stop-Look-Listen-Think-Speak” enhanced communication formula, new insights, ideas and connections can be made — that is a recipe for an enhanced existence.
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Taking A Few Trips Around the Sun with A Fellow Renaissance Man

When someone sees you at an investing conference and shouts out, “Hey, Jim Woods, I really like your stuff,” you know that’s a pathway to making a new and deep friendship.

That’s how I met former U.S. Air Force and Delta Airlines pilot Crosby Ruff. And after enjoying a beer together, we discovered that we had a whole lot more in common than just a love of investing and a military background.

In the newest episode of the Way of the Renaissance Man podcast, you’ll learn about Crosby’s journey from college student to Air Force pilot and from schoolteacher to commercial airline pilot.

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Photo courtesy of Unlock Your Wealth TV

Plus, you’ll hear the fascinating story of Crosby’s close brush with death and how his decisive action during an intense nor’easter storm narrowly averted the disaster of his commercial airliner plunging into the frigid waters surrounding Newark Airport.

Crosby Ruff is an example of someone who lives the Renaissance Man ethos. A man who has exhibited extreme grace under pressure and someone who trusts himself and his training to get through the most extreme circumstances.

It’s often said that people come into your life that make a lasting impression. My friend Crosby Ruff is one of those people, and you’ll find out why in this episode.

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Be Better, Not Bitter

“You either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.”

–Bruce Lee

Martial arts innovator Bruce Lee is a personal hero of mine. His focus, intelligence, mastery of his profession and the gift that he gave to the world through his heroic films, helped mold my psyche as a young man. To this day, I often draw inspiration from Bruce and the intensity with which he approached his existence. In this quote, the master gives us a reminder that life must be approached with an acceptance of reality and the knowledge of your ability to choose your disposition toward that reality. Bitter or better — the choice is yours.

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.

In the name of the best within us,

Jim Woods

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