No matter how at ease you are speaking to groups, how comfortable you are in conversations, or how much confidence you have in your writing ability, you can always become a more interesting communicator.
You become a more interesting communicator by becoming a more interesting person; and the way to do that is to continually broaden your horizons by enhancing the knowledge and skills you already possess and acquiring new, beneficial ones. You also have to approach things with the right attitude.
There are three ways to acquire knowledge: study, experience, and being around people who know more about something than you do. All three methods are useful, but the most efficient is study. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Those who don’t read are no better off than those who can’t read.
A sure way to become a boring person, and by extension a boring communicator, is to be interested only in your work. To be a more interesting person and communicator, at least one-quarter of your reading should be outside your field of work. Reading outside your field of work will help you enormously in developing appropriate analogies, examples and illustrations for your talks, conversations and writing.
Your experiences will provide you with a store of illustrations and examples to use as evidence to back up points you make in all your communications. So try to learn something from everything that happens around you, which you do paying attention to everything that’s going on.
Never put a limit on your search for knowledge. There’s no such thing as an uninteresting subject, just disinterested people. Until you understand something completely, be completely open-minded about it; become interested before you become judgemental. The person who knows how something is done can talk a bit about it; but the person who knows why it is done that way will have much more interested listeners.
Make notes of interesting observations, opinions, quotations, and statistics, and develop a filing system that will allow you to easily find and refer to this material when you need to.
Two particular areas of knowledge that you should never stop developing are your vocabulary and grammar. Being able to find the precise words, and being able to use them correctly, will help enormously in speaking, conversing and writing. Any time you encounter a word that you don’t know the meaning or pronunciation of, look it up in a dictionary and make it a part of your vocabulary. You should also take note of the synonyms and antonyms listed for such words. Doing crossword puzzles is a another way to improve your vocabulary as well as being a great way to relax.
If a day goes by during which you didn’t learn something, then you weren’t paying enough attention.
You must continually hone the skills you have through use, while at the same time acquiring new skills that will enhance your communications. Possessing only a single talent will take you only so far, and will definitely limit your scope as a communicator. As in the case of knowledge, there are three good ways to identify the skills you already possess and to discover those that may be lacking.
Most people don’t have a problem with the first method; it’s simply objectively assessing what it is that you do well and don’t do well. However, it’s sometimes difficult to be sufficiently objective; so the second way is to ask others, such as colleagues, bosses, and mentors, for their assessments. Finally, and this is the one most often overlooked, you have to try new things and try doing old things in new ways.
Putting a limit on what you will do puts a limit on what you can do. If you try new things or doing old things in new ways, you might discover a skill that you didn’t know you had or you might identify a skill that you should or would simply like to develop. Opportunities are never missed; other people will take advantage of those you don’t. When you aren’t improving, someone else is; and when you come up against that person, you will come in second.
The skills you need to acquire are often evident in your surroundings. Ask yourself which skills would help you enhance the application of your knowledge, whatever you’re going to be doing, wherever you’re going to be doing it. For example, the engineer who designs a product and then decides to sell it should take some sales training. It’s usually instructive to ask successful people in your field to recommend areas for improvement.
Not only do you need to develop positive attitudes about yourself, but you must also understand the attitudes of people you deal with; especially what determines their reactions in particular situations, whether that’s sitting in an audience, standing around at a reception, or sitting at the dining room table. No group of people is an amorphous mass; it’s made up of individuals who react as individuals.
We’re all similar when it comes to how we want to be treated. We want to be liked, we want to feel important, and we like variety
To become a more interesting communicator you need to treat people as if you like them and find ways to sincerely make them feel important. There is nothing hypocritical about this. Everyone, just by virtue of being a human being, has the right to be treated decently; and if you can’t find some way to make a person feel important, at least never make that person feel unimportant. And you certainly have to introduce variety into your communications. Don’t be boring and predictable. Whether speaking or writing, the same-old-same-old will simply not do.
People remember two types of communicators: the very good ones and the very bad ones. It’s clear in which category it’s better to be included.