Imagine you are a powerful person. You have command over many people and your responsibilities are great. Decisions you make directly affect your organization. Your ideas help the organization to move forward in its mission and goals.
Now, how are your communication skills?
If you are unable to communicate effectively, your messages could be misunderstood or misinterpreted. In the wrong environment, these situations can have serious implications for you, the organization, and others affected by the organization’s actions.
There are many types of intelligence, and not everyone is born with great communication skills. In fact, most good communicators have worked on their skills to improve their abilities to connect with others and share their ideas. With attention and practice, anyone can improve their communication skills.
Communication intelligence entails thinking about and analyzing your own speech and communication, and constantly making small changes to get your message across more effectively. When you have high communication intelligence, you can consider what your body is doing to give you that unintended rough tone of voice, and make the necessary changes to connect with your listener more effectively. With high communication intelligence also comes knowing how to choose the most appropriate word order and phrasing (i.e., when you’re speaking and when you’re breathing; how you put words together in running speech between breaths) to get your message across to the intended audience.
There are so many components of spoken communication that – unless you happen to be a speech coach – it can be hard to consider everything that affects how your listener hears your message. However, if you can examine and learn to use your own communication skills deliberately and accurately, component by component, then you can become more aware of how to deliver your message in the most effective way possible.
Gaining communication intelligence is not something you do over the weekend. It’s a continuous process of learning to connect with others. Aspects of spoken communication you can change include:
- Rate of speech
- Word choice
- Tone of voice
- Voice quality
Here’s an exercise you can practice to increase your communication intelligence, so you can hear how each of the aspects of spoken communication affect your message:
Record yourself explaining an idea in a sentence or two. Do this many times. Each time, try changing the different variables listed above. Play with your rate of speech by producing some of the words faster or slower than others. Add pauses to different parts of the sentence and listen to how a longer or shorter pause adds meaning to the message. Alter the volume of your voice and try to produce the sentences with different tones of voice. Try using different words to explain the same idea. Listen to each version that you record, and observe how changing just one aspect of communication affects your message.
As you gain confidence with the different aspects of communication, you’ll have greater control over how you communicate your message to different listeners. Pay attention to other speakers and take note of how they combine the aspects of communication to get their message across. Actors are experts at this. As you’re watching your favorite show or movie, observe how actors use the aspects of communication to add emotion and subtext to their lines.
Then, get out and use the aspects of communication to do the same. Go on, let them hear your ideas!