Many people at work or in school are highly talented with technical skills in computer science and math.
But effective speaking and writing may not be one of their top skills. That is common for most people, and it can become a stumbling block in effective communication. If we can’t convey our gifts, talents and expertise succinctly we miss opportunities to persuade and succeed.
Consider this sage expression from non-other than Kurt Vonnegut,“Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.”
Kurt’s message should be accompanied by this subordinate message: if their word-messages are unclear, look at the person for visual and body language cues.
We can apply maxims about wasting time to our communications in a variety of settings, with or without strangers.
- When you meet someone for the first time. Extend or say a greeting or ask a cliche question. Ask something safe and unthreatening. Look to see if they are smiling. Or observe if your question produces expressions like you are the Inquisitor Nun from grade school (they don’t want to answer). If they answer openly, reply with something you have in common with their answer. If not, move on.
- When someone at work asks you a question about a topic, consider asking a closed question in reply. In essence you will be narrowing the field of how you answer, which minimizes time. Most people want to know that you understand or are answering accordingly to what they asked. Watch to see if they are irritated by your qualifying question, if so tell them you want to be direct and clear.
- When someone in a meeting wants your opinion, consider this method. My opinion about this topic is _______. There are three reasons why I have this opinion. Here is more information about my three reasons. Watch to see if people will listen–which I assure you they will. Everyone wants an organized answer to a question.
These above scenarios allow you to communicate effectively all the while gauging if your partner’s body language through non-verbal cues. That’s a big step towards persuading.
Pulling all this together means you will be speaking in a way that honors others, saves time, gets to the point and moves on. If you practice these steps in your conversation, work and meeting activities, you’ll notice you can be more persuasive and won’t waste someone’s time.