Providing excellence in consultation, facilitation and training in communication skills to formulate, understand and convey ideas one-to-one, in small groups and to large audiences, whether to clients, colleagues, senior management or staff.
Aspects of communication include problem solving, team building and support, negotiation, persuasiveness, customer satisfaction, presentation speaking.
CPI specialises in cross cultural communication in New Zealand, the Pacific & Asia.
Melda Townsley, Director Communication, is an experienced trainer consultant.
- Training programmes
- Public and customised programmes
- Consultancy services
A Few Hints for Better Communication
Fillers are those words or sounds that interrupt continuity of thought. Common ones are um, uh, er, ah, like, okay, right, and you know.
The habit of using fillers in speaking is a difficult one to break but it can be done. I was once told by a member of the group I was addressing that I had said ‘now’ 9 times in a short talk. I was surprised but thankful that she had drawn my attention to an annoying habit I had picked up and which was interfering with the message I was trying to get across.
Ways to deal with fillers:
- Be aware of the fillers you use. Listen as you speak or record a short piece and analyse it. What fillers do you use?
- Listen to some callers on talk back radio and notice how frequently fillers are used.
- Deliberately slow your speaking a little and leave a space while you move from one phrase to the next.
- Don’t be afraid of a little silence.
- Deliberately use a pause which can emphasise the next words, build suspense or highlight ideas.
This is an ongoing battle because as soon as you break one habit you may have picked up another. Keep monitoring how you speak with the aim of developing a fluent expression of ideas.
There are as many ways of speaking English as there are people who speak it. Because we aim to be understood by our listeners we must take care to speak clearly, especially to the many new New Zealanders who are struggling with English. Here are some ways to so this:
- Slow the rate of speaking
- Use shorter groups of words
- Watch the listener and check you are being understood
- Sound ‘t’ especially at the end of words e.g. couldn’t, that,
- Take care with:
- culture, not ‘colture’
- ask, not ‘aks’
- something, not ‘somethink’
- known, not ‘knowen’
- Make eye contact and let the listener see your face as you speak.
- Appreciate the effort that new New Zealanders make to understand English
Tone of voice can affect the outcome of what we say more than the meaning of the words used. How often we hear that someone was upset by the tone of voice: its loudness, whining note or harshness. Tone conveys the feelings of the speaker. These affect the listener who decides, for example, whether or not the speaker sounds uncaring, sincere or businesslike.
If we have heard a recording of our voice we are usually surprised by the tone we hear. The voice inside our head has a fullness that listeners don’t hear. A recording is a good place to start assessing our own voice. Do we hear the pleasantness we want others to hear or are there notes that are unpleasant and don’t support the message we want to send?
Do we hear that tired gravelly sound called ‘vocal fry’ often occurring at the end of sentences when the pitch drops? If this scratchy sound is there try humming and notice how the voice sounds more resonant and interesting. Tension affecting the vocal folds has been released and it is not transferred to the listener.
If you have got into the bad habit of neglecting your voice and you want more help use the services of a voice coach. The care you take with your voice is well worth time and investment.
It is surprising how much people fear public speaking. Here’s a simple way to deal with this if the thought of public speaking scares you.
Think of public speaking as ‘conversation at large’. Draw on the confidence you feel when chatting with a friend or in a group and use this as the basis of developing your public speaking confidence. Do not be trapped into writing out a full script this will tie you to set words which must be read or memorised – a sure way to undermine confidence and lose contact with your audience.
Moving from ideas to words
- Decide the simply expressed message you want the audience to get?
- Try making a mind map or diagram to show the ideas connected to this message.
- Isolate 3 or 4 main groupings of these connected thoughts.
- Give a sub heading to each of these groupings.
- Talk over these ideas and groupings with a friend or colleague to hear how you express yourself. Find terms, vocabulary and phrases that suit your ideas. The more you talk about these ideas the better.
- Choose an opening to grab attention – this is really important. Do not fall back on ‘I am here today to talk to you about…’.
- Arrange a smooth connection and development of ideas that tell and complete the message.
- Bring it all to a satisfying ending. Again – do not fall back on ‘Thank you for listening to me.’ Give your audience a definite ending to set a clear thought in their minds.
Preparing to speak:
Use symbols to represent sections of your talk. Practise letting the symbols prompt what you want to say. This will free you from the tyranny of set words.
Take a sentence that is part of your talk and see how many ways you can rephrase it, keeping to the meaning.
Look forward to the speaking occasion recognising that you are feeling excited by the challenge and not nervous. You will be changing negative feelings to positive ones.
You have dealt with the woe and you are ready to go!
The sound of the message is itself a message that tells people a lot about you such as your:
- Level of calm or of frustration.
- Degree of interest in the person you are speaking to.
We are affected not by what is said so much as how it is said.
Hear what you are saying and check that your voice is sending the message you want to send.
Take care with the sound, the tone of voice, not just the vocabulary we choose.
Can you hear me? Relates to volume, loudness and identifying sounds.
Are you listening? Goes deeper. It means are you ready to pick up sound and meaning?
‘You’re not listening’ is a chief complaint affecting good communication in the workplace. Check your listening skills to facilitate good listening and better communication.
- Let the speaker complete what he/she is saying without interruption
- Repeat the words you hear if you are uncertain
- Check that you have grasped what the speaker said by confirming their meaning – ‘Do you mean…?’ ‘Are you saying…?’
- Listen to the explanation given
- Note the emotion that colours how the words are spoken
- Respond to this emotion
- Discover what the speaker really wants. It may be that someone making a complaint wants fast, friendly service, not just a replacement of a broken item.
Be patient with people for whom English is not their first language.
Respect their efforts to be understood
- Give them an estimate of the time they will have to wait
- Give them an understanding of why there is a delay
- Keep in touch with them during the waiting period
- Consider the feelings of telephone customers who have to wait:
- Must they listen to music?
- Give them silence to get on with other work
- Tell them where they are in the queue
- Give them the choice to leave a message which will be answered within a given time.
Above all – get back to people and let them know what’s happening.
- Choose carefully.
- When you use your first name don’t think the customer wants you to use his or her first name.
- Show particular courtesy in discovering which name the customer wants you to use. The customer may feel offended if you immediately use the first name and you have then made it difficult for the customer to correct this in a friendly way.
- Give the customer the choice of which name is preferred – the formal family name or informal first (given) name. If this is your first contact, show respect by using the formal name, leaving it to the customer to correct you.
- Ask: ‘What name would you like me to use?’ and then note and use that name next time.
- Leave it to the customer to relax formality by saying then or later, ‘Call me Tom’ or ‘Call me Chris’.
- Your personal attention to the customer’s preferred name will give customer satisfaction.
- A short pause prepares listeners for something important which follows or it allows something to sink in which has just been heard.
- A slight pause before addressing an audience gathers attention and focus.
- Use a pause to build suspense before an announcement
- Use a pause to change the mood.
Do people remember only the first part of your message? Do they forget important information further on?
Help people listen to hear and remember all the information by following these simple guidelines:
- Keep the list short – three to five major points if possible
- Arrange the major points in logical order
- Group minor information under these major headings, again aiming for a short list of minor points
- Number the major points
- Announce how many points you will be giving in the announcement e.g. There are five notices this morning
- Say each point clearly and firmly, speaking at a rate that is easy to follow
- Use your voice to highlight special information e.g. Point three is particularly important for out of town visitors, and when grouping minor points
- Summarise the numbered major points at the end.