Communication works for those who work at it. John Powell
I have had many passions in my life. If you were to ask my parents, “When Ralph was a kid, what did he want to be when he grew up” they would probably respond with a long list of professions ranging from a doctor to a basketball player. Even though I have had many of interests and involvements, communication has a special place in my life.
I’ve always liked the idea of communicating ideas and thoughts. Whether it was through music, writing, art, or the spoken word, I have always been attracted to the concept of communication. Although I appreciate the many different forms of communication, I’ve fallen in love with verbal communication. Great sermons inspire me, creative song lyrics intrigue me, and nothing stirs me more than engaging in a meaningful conversation.
For me, speaking to an audience is one of the most fulfilling feelings that I have ever experienced. Whether it is a group of students or business professionals, I love verbally communicating my knowledge and experience to an attentive group of listeners. Rarely will I turn down a chance to speak in public. When I discovered that I could combine my gift for speaking to an audience with my desire to help others; I found my passion and purpose
I began speaking in 2005 after I realized that I didn’t have a fear of public speaking. All of my speeches then were on the topic of confidence and persistence. One night I visited a local Toastmasters club. I sat down and a lady next to me introduced herself.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Ralph Jean-Paul”, I responded.
“Wait!” she said “I know you!”
She grabbed my arm and quickly walked me out into the hallway. Then she began telling me about how she saw me speak a few months earlier and that the speech changed her life. She began crying and explaining how thing have been hard for her. She told me that my speech helped her not to give up no matter how hard things got and no matter how many times she failed. She thanked me over and over again. At that moment, I knew exactly what I should be doing with my life.
Along with my personal development speeches, these days I also give talks on entrepreneurship, and internet marketing. But no matter what I speak about, I always include motivation and inspiration to the audience. I realize that I have the opportunity to say something that may change someone’s life.
The Courage to Communicate
Have you ever been in a meeting and wanted to voice your opinion about something, but didn’t? When you were a child in school, did you ever have a question but were afraid to raise your hand? Most of us have. Expressing our thoughts can be difficult at times.
Many people fear what may happen if they share their thoughts. Some people feel that there will be negative repercussions if they voice their thoughts, opinions and objections. Some feel that they will be judged or laughed at for speaking up. So instead of saying what needs to be said, they hold it in.
We should never be afraid to share our ideas. Communicating our thoughts and ideas is beneficial to us as well as others. Withholding what needs to be said may make matters worse. The truth is a lack of communication is at the heart of most of the problems we face. Many people complain that there isn’t enough communication in their workplace. Good marriages are based on communication between spouses. And, one of the best parenting methods is to keep the lines of communication open with your children.
Since effective communication is so important, we should be constantly working to improve those skills.
Imagine a world where everyone was communicating effectively. A world where politicians kept no secrets and answered questions directly. A world where relationships where filled with people talking about their problems instead of holding them in. A world where the cable company calls you if they are going to be late to your appointment. That’s the kind of world I want to live in one day.
Since effective communication is so important to me, I work diligently to enhance those skills. When I am preparing for a speech, I will often record myself and then listen to the recording over and over again. I make subtle changes in the wording and emphasis in order to be sure that my message is understood.
During my daily interactions I am also constantly working to make sure that I am speaking loud and clear. That means that whether I am talking to a friend, client, or person at the pick-up window, I am speaking clearly. When looking at all of the important areas of your life, being able to communicate effectively will dramatically improve them all. Here are some ways to improve the way you communicate.
Listen. This is the number one skill needed to communicate effectively and surprisingly, the most overlooked. We are sometimes so concerned about being heard that we fail to listen to what others have to say. Becoming an active listener can make a world of difference in the way you communicate.
I like to ask follow-up questions just to be sure that I understand. During a conversation or discussion, be sure to ask the other person to clarify if you do not fully understand what they are saying. Avoid making assumptions about what was said. By listening closely you minimize the chances for miscommunications to happen.
Observe. When I give a speech or presentation, it is important that I observe how the audience is reacting to me. What the audience is doing helps me determine what I do next. For example, if I see more heads nodding in agreement on the left side of the room, then it is time to work the right side. The audience is communicating with me all throughout my speech. As long as I am observing their reactions, I know exactly what I should say and do in order to connect with them.
In your daily communication with others it is important to be observant. When you are conversing with someone pay close attention to their body language, voice tone, and other subtle messages. It’s easy to miss the messages others send if we are not paying attention.
Be clear. Clarity is something I strive to accomplish when it comes to communication. Whether it is speaking or writing, delivering a clear message is my goal. Even if the person we are talking to has known us for years, it is still important that we be clear when we communicate with them. Creating a habit of being clear with everyone will minimize occurrence of miscommunication.
Be Easy to Talk To. Keeping the lines of communication open is very important. Become the type of person that people feel comfortable approaching with their questions and concerns. Being easy to talk to means being helpful and understanding when someone presents a problem.