Introducing yourself

It can be a challenge to strike the right note when you have to introduce yourself to people who do not know you when you are not in the workplace. The temptation might be to say too much and that can be boring. Saying not enough on the other hand, risks being underwhelming. How best to do this outside of a business setting when you want to be friendly and get to know others?   Brief introductions are always best so just provide the the essentials that the other person needs to know about you such as your name and where. you are from. Use the context of the meeting place or occasion. If you meet another enthusiast at an art show, you could say something like say, “Hi, I’m David. I’m here to see the Picasso’s.” Understatement is a virtue. Unless you’re in a business setting, your job title is irrelevant. You can just indicate what line of work you are in if this is appropriate. Focus on the other person. Ask questions and listen to the answers if you truly want to get off to a good start and make a good impression. In fact, just be yourself! If you want to invest in building all-round, great communication skills, invest in “52 Brilliant Communication Tips” by Maureen...

Perceptions influence outcomes

One huge learning point we can take from the stunning performances of the athletes at the 2012 Paralympics, is that perception can influence both the individual performing and those observing. The outstanding achievements and the beliefs of excellence of all the paralympians have certainly altered my perceptions. Now I firmly believe that ‘disabled’ is a misnomer – rather say ‘differently-abled’. They certainly performed beyond their expectations and many of ours! When applying this learning to the challenges of communicating effectively, in order to change a situation, you often have to start by seeing it differently and challenging your own perceptions. A very effective way to do this is to consider the various “positions” or viewpoints and explore each different perspective in turn to see if fresh insights point you towards a possible solution. Developing these and other pertinent communication skills will enhance your powers to manage meetings for positive outcomes or to find ways to build great customer relationships. Now is the perfect time to invest in your communication assets and benefit from the legacy that changing perceptions can...

Going for communication gold

After a week of reflecting on how great the Olympics were, we can only marvel at the astounding achievement of the athletes who took part. Skill, talent, dedication and the occasional flash of genius all played a part in medal success. The words of one athlete, Team GB’s double gold medallist  Mo Farah, struck a particular chord. Interviewed after securing his second gold, he attributed his double victory to “graft and hard work”. How does this link to our world of communication? At The Training Box, we would never deny that some great communicators are simply made that way. However, we also know that  “graft and hard work” can pay dividends in building the communication skills you need to be more certain of success.   Individual one-to-one coaching is also a great way to invest in your communication assets and make a greater contribution to the achievement of your personal and organisational goals. Go for communication...

Good peripheral vision helps your communication skills

In an earlier blog, we wrote about a site called “Lumosity” that claims to improve brain health and performance. The Training Box has been diligently exercising with encouraging results. One of the skills that is enhanced by regular training of this nature is peripheral vision, the ability to notice things at the edges of the field of sight. Did you know that improved peripheral vision is great for your communication skills? With practice, you can become more aware of a whole range of things and not just the objects that surround you.  Better peripheral vision helps you to register and process non-verbal signals like the facial expressions and body language of those with whom you are communicating. Building your sensitivity to these signals is important as even the smallest of movements  can help you to read the sub-text of conversations. Posture, position, micro-muscle movements around the eyes or lips  can reinforce and support the verbal messages that someone is sending out, signalling authenticity. Equally, they can make you alert to a conflict between what someone is saying and how they are saying it, indicating a need for caution or perhaps for you to ask a question to check something out. One-on-one conversations may not present such a big challenge for you as a communicator but the ability to notice and react to a multitude of signals could be critical in group discussions, at meetings or when handling questions after a presentation. Our advice: boost your peripheral vision!...

How to answer a question without answering the question

Technically speaking, I am not sure how admirable a communication skill it is to be able to confidently answer a question without actually answering the question. This is something politicians are frequently accused of  – just take a look at the infamous Jeremy Paxman / Michael Howard interview for a prime example. However, even those of us who are not politicians sometimes find it necessary to avoid giving a direct answer. One way to do this of course, is to counter with a question of your own. This works but should only be attempted once or twice in succession. Probably the best way is to open up the question and build a bridge to an answer that you do feel comfortable with. When asked if you think a particular plan is too expensive, you could respond by saying something like  “The essential question is not how much the plan costs is but the benefits that it will bring.” You can prepare for difficult questions in advance by thinking about what you DO want to say and knowing your key messages. Leave out any negative implications contained in the question and start your answer with a phrase that allows you to bring in some positive content or to refocus the attention in the direction of one of your key...

Communicating “with heart”

During a briefing session with a client last week to prepare for a presentation training programme for his team, I asked the question, “What should the participants be able to do (or do better) after the training, that they cannot currently do?” His answer was that they should be better speakers and presenters, able to get their message across and able to do it with heart. I probed a little so that we could set some specific goals – especially about what he meant by “with heart”. It became clear that he knew exactly what he meant but found it difficult to find words that expressed precisely what he had in mind. A few adjectives were used such as “lively” and also the phrase “speak directly to the listeners”.  I think what he really means is “be able to connect”.  The ability to connect can seem somewhat intangible and may often be a matter for personal opinion. This might explain why our client found it hard to find the right words to describe it. In setting this objective for his team though, he has recognised that both the content level and the relationship level are important for success in communication. Our tip to participants is that truly connecting is best achieved by a mix of addressing the needs and interests of the target audience and being authentic. Being authetic means having the courage to open yourself up, “letting go of who you think you should be to be who you are”.  This quote comes from a very inspiring (and funny talk) by Brené Brown, to be found at TED...