Friday, May 09, 2008

Flubbing the Story: 10 Communication Mistakes We All Make (part 2)

1) Be boring.

Being boring centers around being focused on yourself. Even when telling stories you must be paying attention to the person who is listening to you. You must think ahead of time, "Why do they want to hear this story?" "How can I tell this story so it is interesting to them?"

Your stories will usually be about your experiences. How you tell your stories and how you position yourself in your stories will determine just how interested the other person will be.

2) Talk for too long.

If you are in an everyday conversation, you probably have less than one minute to tell your story. Learn to tell what I call a "thumb nail" or a "Reader's Digest condensed version" of your story.

I remember when my sister was a pre-teen she would come home from the movies and virtually recite all the lines of the movie line for line, scene for scene. My eyes would glaze over by the time she got past the opening credits. 30 minutes later she would finish and I would be nodding my head. I loved my sister. I just didn't have the heart to tell her. Over the years she learned to tell the "Reader's Digest condensed version". Today she is an executive with Johnson and Johnson.

3) Speak too slowly.

People have very short attention spans. Most companies pitch their products in thirty second commercials on television. The newest wave of men's magazines include the best sellers Stuff and Maxim. These publications feature "articles" as short as a paragraph. Our attention spans are so short that USA Today seems to be filled with articles that are far too detailed for a lot of people. The message needs to be delivered quickly and concisely in print and in everyday conversation.

One of the greatest problems people have when telling a story is speaking far too slowly. Think of the people who are enjoyable to listen to. Comedians. Robin Williams: Speaks quickly. Dennis Miller: Speaks quickly. Bill Cosby: Speaks moderately. George Wallace: Speaks quickly. Billy Crystal: Moderate to fast paced. Jerry Seinfeld: Moderate to fast paced. There aren't a lot of people who make you laugh who also speak slowly when they are telling a story. Yes, there is an exception to every rule, but here is the rule: Speak a little more quickly and you have a better chance of having your story heard and enjoyed.

4) Speak in a garbled way so that people can't understand you.

Many people look away when they are communicating with you. They think you have a universal translator that translates all languages including garbled English. Remember that millions of people are hard of hearing and they have little chance of hearing the average woman (who speak at frequencies much higher than men) speak at all. When you speak, look at the person you are talking to. Speak clearly. Speak loud enough so they can hear you. All of this may seem obvious but having observed thousands of people communicate, I promise you that this one mistake causes big problems in relationships; problems that could easily be avoided.

To read about Mistake # 5 come back soon!

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