Friday, January 06, 2006

Communication Tips 101

I wouldn't have said better than Loren Ekroth so let's give the master of communcation his due. Link to Loren's site at end of post.


As you anticipate the new year, some of you will be seeking changes in your health, life-style, and careers.

You probably know by now that most New Year's resolutions fail. The main reasons they fail are that goals are unrealistically large and that resolvers have no clear plan to reach their goals.

If you want to improve your conversation skills (and thus your relationships), you can do so with a much greater chance of success by following a few simple procedures. Choose small goals, then take small steps to reach them. Making changes in this way helps you to avoid the kick-back effect you'd encounter if you try to make massive changes in a short time. Your current habits have long been anchored in place and resist change.

Three Small Conversation Goals That Have Big Effects:

1. Listen attentively without interrupting. Give your full attention to the speaker, then check to see that you understood accurately by giving a short summary. Doing this two or three times each day for a few weeks will install this skill as a habit. As well, people will begin to see you as a great communicator.

2. Use more open questions and fewer closed questions. For example, "What are your plans for the holidays?" is an open question that requires a detailed response. "Will you be traveling to your parents' home?" is a closed question that requires only a "yes" or "no" answer. Similarly, "What did you like or dislike about the movie?" elicits detail. "Did you like the movie?" may get a one-word response.

3. Replace saying "Yes, but . . ." by saying "Yes, and . . ." When someone says something you disagree with, don't make them wrong with "Yes, but." Instead, let them know you have a different point of view by adding, "Yes, and in my experience there is another way of understanding that situation." Huge distinction here! - mm

People who are successful at conversation leave clues. As a professional observer of talk-patterns, I have noticed the patterns that work and those that don't. The three small patterns above are relatively easy to install, and adopting even one of them can make a big positive difference in your conversational effectiveness.

Write Mini-Goals and Simple Plans

It's helpful to set one or two small goals, then write them down and read them over once each day. For example:

Goal: "I give my full attention to what others say and check to see that I understand." Deadline: February 2, 2006 Plan: "I will practice giving my full attention when listening at least twice each day until I can do so with comfort and ease."

Partner with Another

If you have a friend who is also making changes, you can partner with them and hold each other accountable by checking in from time to time. For example, Joe wants to lose ten pounds, and you want to listen more effectively. Each of you shares your goal(s) and plan, then every few days checks in with "How are you doing with your goal(s)?

Use Reminders

Because we are so habit-bound, it's easy to forget about what we are trying to achieve. To deal with forgetfulness, use reminders such as wearing your watch on the other hand, or putting a rubber band around your wrist and giving it a little "snap" if you forget. Also, reading over your goal and plan daily will help a lot. You can write your plan on a note-card for review.

If you select a few small goals and take small steps to achieve them, please let me know of your success. Meanwhile, best wishes for a wonderful New Year!

Loren Ekroth © 2005 Loren Ekroth, Ph.D. is a specialist in human communication and a national expert on conversation for business and social life. His articles and programs strengthen critical communication skills for business and professional people. Contact at Check resources and archived articles at


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